“Writing has nothing to do with success; it has to do with lucidity.” (John Berger)

THE WORD

In the beginning was the Word – the sound of inspiration. And, inspired by a distant memory of such a moment, feel free to give voice to these (your) rising thoughts, (our) rising thoughts, (or) thoughts, quite simply, and to sound them out, and, being inspired in your breathing, turning inward, be inspired to write down these thoughts, and to write the thoughts down, with ease, at ease, just as they come, as word, as words, in words.
And learn in this way to set down your thoughts in words, and to know a little of (our) mind, (our) rising thoughts, (or) mind, (or) thoughts, quite simply (your own) (much like an other’s) mind, and, relaxing into the mindful, to trace there, upon the page, the journey of a single mind’s reflections,
And to breathe, and to write – and simply to breathe, and to write,
And, putting pen to paper, simply to let the ink flow, ink flowing, so easily, so that,
Whatever your inspiration,
You write it up,
And write it down,
And write it out, write now, at once,
So as to find then your voice,
And your vocation, and, in doing so,
To free your inspiration, and to hear that voice resound, as if
A sound, resonating, from the silence, the depths of silence, a sound, a prayer,
A form of prayer, from out of nothing,
A form of prayer, from emptiness,
And a dream, of days, and nights, divine.

© Bede Nix, 2017. All rights reserved.

HERE IS WHERE WE MEET

In a spirit of confidence, trust, good faith, let’s let go. Let’s be open, free. Let’s lose ourselves a bit (as if in love). / For when you need something, there it is; and when you look for something, you find it; and when you look for this or that person, some / one / special, they find you, or you find them, if not immediately, at once, then soon. / For wherever you go, there you are, always present, saying: / Be Here Now. / And so if I, passing, meet you, and desire to speak, then why should I not speak to you? And you to me. For you are the riddle of another world, infinitely fascinating, calling out for a deeper understanding, some sense of communion in a shared humanity, a sound in search of echo, a call that seeks response, a question, and sometimes, perhaps, an answer. Let’s both then pause and, if only for a moment, wonder about the world, together. Tell me, where do you call home? From where have you come? Where, your roots? And what your point of view? In any case, you have surely travelled far to be here now. So what now? What next? And to where? Or are you perhaps one who prefers not to know your destination, simply enjoying the sensation of being a little lost, a little adrift, afloat upon the dancing river of life … knowing that this great life energy, great life spirit, seeks not to restrain us, in any way, but lifts us up, rather, stage by stage, to wider and more open spaces … open spaces, and warm, open, faces … and faces, and faces, and faces, and so many faces, so many, many faces, and faces, facing it, and just facing it, just facing it, faces, facing, such beauty, in motion, emotion, and the motion of movement itself, moving time, flowing time, a mystery, and travelling always towards the over there, the beyond, and beyond even the I, and the You, and the That, towards a kind of ecstasy, an o, an om, a ho, a hum, a hymn, a huh, a why, a who. / (Your smile brings joy) / Asking: what is your name? Who are you? / And who am I, for that matter? Who am I, to you? / (Am I only one, or one of many, perhaps, or no one?). / Of course, the thing is not so much what we call each other, or the fact that we may be mistaken and getting our names quite wrong, like calling a wrong number … no; the important thing … well … who really knows? … who really knows … the one mind … with an attitude of humility, even reverence … standing under … and perhaps also understanding … sometimes … a little … if only a little … in confidence, trust, good faith … so as to drop the reins completely … to let go … and, letting go … letting it all go … to be open, free … and to lose ourselves once again, a bit, and then again, still more (as if in love) … so do let’s smile, say hello, establish contact, make a call, write a letter, be in touch … for in this way, we’ll share perhaps a word, and perhaps a world … / And I am glad that now our paths have crossed, for here is where we meet. / This day, this journey; paths crossed, stories shared: a time to keep silence, yes, but also a time to talk, break bread, sip tea; a time to sit still, for a while, to rest, to relax, and a time to move on. / It’s been a great pleasure to meet you and to speak with you this day, to share stories and journeys. / (Thank you). / May you know great happiness, in love, and gratitude. / And, until next time, same place, or some place other, like a wayfaring stranger, a wise traveller, walking always in confidence, trust, good faith, and, whether in company, or seemingly, alone: bon voyage, my friend; fare well.

© Bede Nix, 2017. All rights reserved.

THE SOUND OF HEART

If we listen carefully, what might we hear in the word “heart” or, at least, speaking for myself, for me, as I think through and try to express myself in this, my own, “mother tongue”, my own first language, what might I hear, now, listening here, right here, and now, with you, in this world, in this word, in this world of words, in that which we call, in English, “heart”?

But wait! We are perhaps racing ahead in our thoughts. Or I am, at least. Nothing new there. But should we not rather go slowly, taking one small step at a time, and first asking ourselves the following question, or questions.

How can we know when we are really listening carefully?

How can we do that?

How do we listen carefully, as if, with heart, with all the heart, with all one’s human heart?

How should we listen well?

(To hear the sense, and sound; to hear the music).

I am not sure that I have any satisfactory – or satisfying – answers to these questions.

Have you?

Never mind; no matter …

Let’s sit quietly together, in any case, and try, if only for a moment, to think it through.

–Can I pour you some tea?–

And, allowing time to think it through, thinking it through, letting the thinking through, through thinking itself, through with thinking, and sitting quietly, as our thoughts begin to settle, thoughts settling, and the mind, little by little, becoming entirely quiet, and still; and it is in this moment there that, first and foremost, we may recall ourselves to each other, in our shared mystery, and potential, and simply be present; perhaps it’s an act, or a decision; perhaps it’s an attitude, or simply a reaction, of recognition; perhaps it’s an inspiration; or perhaps it’s already the beginning of this, our answer.

(The beginning of our answer to each human other).

(A meeting; an encounter; a discovery).

(A conversation).

(A dialogue).

(The beginning of our answer to each and every human other).

–Some more tea?–

And, in this, our inspiration, we sit together, as if our meeting of minds were itself a kind of dwelling place, somewhere to feel for a moment at home.

And then, in a little quiet time, we sit together perhaps a little more closely, a little, ever so little; we come a little closer, and feel a little closer, one to the other; and, sitting close, our perspectives become aligned; and, in this way, ever so slowly, and ever so subtly, we become fleetingly conscious of the fact, a little, ever so little, that we are breathing now together, more or less, in time, and as if our breaths, in truth, were one, were only one breath, and our now quietened thoughts, for a single present moment, in harmony.

And, sitting down quietly together, in this single present moment, now, we realize, even if not quite fully, and fully consciously, something quite extraordinary, which perhaps we will call here, for want of a better word, “understanding”; but “understanding” understood very modestly, to mean something like “standing under”, as if standing under, for example, a vast and magnificent sky, the heavens above, and in an attitude that is fully open, to wonder, about the world, itself, and fully open, to a feeling, a sense, a keen sense, of mystery, and to not knowing, and then, in fact, to not really knowing anything, in its entirety, and to not really understanding anything at all, at all, or not completely, and instead leaving always a little space for the company of some, one, some, thing, other.

Do you understand?

And in this, our understanding, and in this, our recognition, of our lack, of understanding, and our insufficiency, our incompleteness, our modesty, we come perhaps to sit even more closely together, to sit still more closely together, a little, ever so little; and we come a little closer, and feel a little closer, one to the other; and, sitting close, our perspectives becoming aligned, in lack of understanding, in understanding; and, in this way, ever so slowly, and ever so subtly, we become fleetingly conscious of the fact, a little, ever so little, that we are breathing now together, more or less, in time, and as if our breaths, in truth, were one, were only one breath, and our now quietened thoughts, for a single present moment, in harmony.

And, sitting down quietly, together, in this single present moment, we have become now so close, you and I, that it is as if I inhale your breath, you mine and, in this way, we come at last, again, to listening, and to listening carefully, to what we might hear, when we are listening, very carefully, in the heart, the human heart, your beating heart, my beating heart, as if, listening carefully –listen!– there is hearing, upon the eardrum, vibrating, reverberating, a heartbeat, itself, a heartbeat, beating, pulsating, to a pulse, a rhythm, a pulse, a rhythm, now a little faster, now a little slower, vibrating, reverberating, and sounding, listening carefully, together, as one, one song; and one song, as if sounded, as it were, in unison, as if unified, one beating heart, one voice, one song; one song, as if the heart, together, in company, in choir, can open up, in this single present moment, now, to become as if a vast, celestial echoing chamber, or dome, of magnificent sound, as if the song of the very sky itself, in swollen human heart; and this then, being, at once, sounding, and listening, is to the relaxed human heart, hearing music; for relaxed human hearts hum happily as one.

(And, almost as an aside, I ask you: what is language if not a music of the tongue? And what is culture – and especially a culture of art, music, and dance – if not a ground, a site, on which and from where to encourage and cultivate growth, a ground that encourages growth, in an attitude that encourages growth, and a ground that is worthy, therefore, of recalling, and of our recurring attention, and cultivation, and praise).

So let’s now take courage, seek greatness of heart, and encourage in ourselves a deeper listening, and hearing, and understanding, and compassion. For, if we listen very carefully, what we might hear, in this word, our “heart”, is the very art of hearing itself, or the art, that is, of listening, hearing, and understanding, with compassion, and heart, and only heart – the art, of heart!

And we humans, humming happily, come home, sound of heart.

Written with my feet in Switzerland, my ears in Oman, my head again in the clouds, thinking sky, and my heart all over the place. What great good fortune!
Geneva, 21 November 2017 – We Called It A Tuesday

© Bede Nix, 21 November 2017. All rights reserved.

IN THOUGHT, A FACE

In thought absorbed, in the depth of thought, absorbed, a face, cut as if from fabric, may sometimes wrinkle, sometimes crease …
And you look so deathly serious, my friend!
Your face so grave … graven … as if engraved … a line of thought, written upon the face, which sometimes I imagine that I can read, as if reading you like a book, and at other times, as now, the text seeming impenetrable, as if infinitely mysterious, unfathomable, unknowable.
(A foreign language).
What is it?
What then, your preoccupation, or concern? Your incomprehension, or bewilderment? Or what, perhaps, your secret happiness?
Sadness? Anxiety? Disappointment? Dismay? Melancholy? Regret? Grief? Anguish? Embarrassment? Envy? Jealousy? Guilt? Impatience? Fear? Frustration? Anger? Bitterness? Dread? Rage? Hatred? Despair?
Something of that, perhaps?
Or is it, rather, an excited anticipation?
Hope? Joy? Delight? Passion? Love?
(A relief, at any rate).
(What happiness).
And calm.
(Perhaps).
Or compassion?
–It could be so many things.
(Can be).
(Confidence).
And our emotions move the heart and stir the mind, enslaving us to passion, and getting us all worked up, and rendering everything at times so confused, and subject to so much desire, and so much suffering.
And there, upon the face, a line of thought that seeks perhaps the clarity of word, and perhaps a word’s beguiling promise, of separation, of liberation, a release of emotion, and a hope for freedom, for freedom from thought, from further thought, from thinking further.
(Some peace of mind).
And this line of thought, this long, long line of thought, looking back, looking back upon it, traced in memory, like so many steps along a journey, and something like a path, perhaps, a kind of life lived, or story, his story, her story, where we’ve been, or to where we’re going back, a mind’s eye’s dreamlike journeyings, forming pools here of reflection, reflections there fading, fading away, away, fading.
And are you not then but a mirror of time? A mirror of time’s reflections?
(Mind’s eye).
And I reach out for and take up my pen now as if my instinct were spontaneously to draw you; you, I mean; really you …
(To draw you near).
(And it’s perhaps just a helpful way to see you, by way of profile, or portrait; a vision, something like).
(In creative imagination, some empathy).
(And the consolation, warming, heartening, like an offer of hospitality, and a belief, a hope, a trust, in comprehension, in understanding).
(A kind of refuge).
And then, for but a moment, timeless, time’s glimpse into eternity, I rest my gaze upon you and, observing, try to see you, really you, and, while tracing these thoughts, as lines, I see each line of thought as if a detail, a feature, upon your face, and each detail, each feature, upon your face, as if a line of thought.
And I allow–I hold–that thought.
(And with it, I turn my thoughts to what feels then like an infinite tenderness, like a light sea breeze in summer; a gentle caress).
(To be in touch).
(And no more tension, then; no more resistance).
And so I draw you near, hold you dear … listening … your beating heart, its pulse, and rhythm, an ebb, and ocean flow, in breathing, in breathing … in listening … in breathing, in breathing … in listening … a kind of music … a music, of mind … a sky blue mind … full of light … and seeming so lucid … and clear …
(And refreshing – so refreshing!)
So that there then you are, somehow, held near, held dear, in this but a wrinkle, a crease, upon my face, absorbed in thought, a line of thought; and an embrace, of sorts.
(Your face, or mine; your thought, or mine; or another’s; eyes open, or closed; reach out, that’s all; no matter).
(And we then, who we, the so many, so very many, for whom you, for whom you, in passing, our love, my love, such love).
And here then this line, this thought, this line of thought, for the love of this, our human life, and for the love of your life, of you, and for the love of you, this life, your love, and then, too, for the love of, and for, your children, and the love of, and for, your parents, and their parents, your grandparents, and the love of your siblings, hopefully, and your friends, of course, and all your lovers, many, or few, and not last, and certainly not least, let’s not forget your husbands, or your wives, your life’s companions, and above all (such gratitude) to this your life of love, of searching love.
Love of this.
And love of you.
Love of this life.
This life of love, and …
Love.
Life.
You.
Gently, then; ever so gently.
Hold me gently.
Hold on gently.
Or so I thought.

© Bede Nix, 2017. All rights reserved.

HUMAN SPIRIT - AND THE IMAGINATION, FLYING FREE

If the human spirit truly had wings, like a bird, it would need no passport, visa, and security check, and no expensive ticket to allow it free movement from place to place. And nor would it recognize a border of any kind unless that border were viewed simply as landmark – mountain, river, ocean. For a bird, untethered, and free, lifts its wings, and flies. Is it not so? My friend, please do something for me now: lift your own eyes, for a moment, to the sky. Look up at the sky, that’s all. And you will see.

© Bede Nix, 7 March 2018. All rights reserved.

AS IF, THE SKY

Who listens to us in the sky?

“Nothing can justify what is happening, but so long as it happens, it is necessary that it should be taken in, because it is necessary that the inner life of man, that the life that he creates within his mind, resemble as finely, that is to say, as truthfully, as possible, the actual world. And the whole history of art and philosophy is the history of a long and extraordinarily hard struggle to make this possible … But if we accept what is happening, then, not always, but often, one is face to face with the tragic … And, what happens, in face of the tragic, is that people accept it and cry out against it, although it won’t change. And they cry out, very, very frequently, to the sky … The sky is the only thing that can be appealed to in certain circumstances … Who listens [to us] in the sky? Perhaps God? Perhaps the dead? Perhaps even history … ”
John Berger, In Conversation with Sebastião Salgado, in “The Spectre of Hope”

As if, the sky.

To look, to listen, to watch, to wait, to learn.

As I write down these thoughts, these words, I feel so deeply blessed, for I am bathed now in light.

And it’s such a beautiful clear blue sky today; can you see it too?

Such a beautiful clear blue sky; and one experiences it as vast, as boundless, and yet, and yet, contemplating, such a sky, a sky that appears to be perfectly empty, entirely without physical depth, there is, in the fleeting twinkling of an eye, an infinite moment, and that’s to say, time, eternal time, recognized, and for a moment known, with such depth, of clarity, that it’s something like an insight, as from a sparkling, diamond mind – even if, to whom we may refer – and whose insight – whose mind – who knows – such that, the who … no matter – for, simply speaking, one observes only …. Sky … and only sky … sky that is entirely clear, perfectly clear, and empty, like some vast, heavenly dome … and sky, revealing, only ever more, of itself … as if expanding … ever expanding … always expanding … into clarity, every greater clarity … and light … the sky … and the sky so clear, so blissfully clear, as if, all, were clear, and the sky, so clear, so blissfully clear, as if … all … as if all, were entirely clear … for just that moment … all clear … and only light, and only light, be only light; and indeed, there is no detail in such a clear blue sky upon which the eye can feed, obsess, hunt down, or seek to possess, becoming fixated; and what a surprise, that is – startling, almost a shock – startling, like someone abruptly woken up, in a start – such that, the reflection of such a sky, after such a start, relaxes, then, the eye, into something, perhaps, like freedom, an expanded vision, where you are at once lost, freed and, at the same time, the sky itself … all the sky itself … seen, somehow, itself, in beauty’s bliss … as that … that’s seeing … the seeing … all seeing … eye …

And you will recall that, in reflection, the mind itself, sometimes, can seem this way; such that the mind, that opens, much, to perceive (as if to contain, or indeed to be), the sky, sees something like a vision, so beautiful, but at the same time so disorientating, so intensely disorientating, so overwhelming, that the beauty itself, too much … such that one loses oneself, in the sky, and the eye, for a moment, is dazzled, blind, in the immense clarity, that beauty’s bliss, of such a vision.

And in this way I do not have to imagine a clear blue sky, but only to open and lift up my eyes, and to allow the light to flood in, for it is there above me, viewed from exactly here where I am, where now I stand, and, when I look up, at this sky, it’s as if it catches me, in its light, embrace, of sky, light, unfiltered, and it’s almost as if the sky itself were somehow, in a sense, my mother, and as if the sky itself were somehow, in a sense, my father, catching me, in memory’s dear embrace, child of the sky, and, in this way, this sky serves then, somehow, as a reminder, a gentle reminder, that I am alive, still alive, and in this way the light, breathing, air, and stirring spirit, and inspiration, and thought, lifting up, seeking life, upon a breeze, a light, gentle breeze, makes me question, for a moment, if I am not, or if I am, myself, not for a moment, or for a moment, as if the very winds, of change, and that life itself, seeking life, itself, somehow, in the light, the illumination, is fanning us, again, into life, in this impulse, deeply human, stimulated, to look up, and look forward, and to reach out, arms outstretched, heart open, towards the sky, and to stand tall, and to search, and to search, and to search, the sky, for horizons, time’s changing horizons, observed, when seen, in each blinking eye, as if anew, and then imagining there, sometimes, upon the sky’s distant horizon, the beginning of hope, and possibility, and a calling, and a calling out, again, and a calling out, again, to dream.

But supposing that now, as you read these words, you are outside, and feeling yourself in some sense already quite free, or supposing that you are indoors, having gone in, through doors, only to find yourself, there, behind closed doors, and high walls, as if trapped, locked in, imprisoned, and barred from seeing clearly the light, of the sky, yet even then, even there, and even so, you find a window, and for a second you look out, as through the bars of a prison cell, and, in simply looking up, and out, what your eyes see is no clear blue sky, but rather a sky that is grey, cloudy, and overcast, or windswept, and rainy, or wild, and tempestuous, electric, with thunder, and lightning, or black, in dark, apocalyptic vision, and as if you were seeing all from the silent stillness of a storm’s blind, roving eye …

And you will recall that, in reflection, the mind itself, sometimes, can seem this way; such that the mind, that opens, much, to perceive (as if to contain, or indeed to be), the sky, can see there something like a vision, a dark vision, so bleak, and so terrifying, and so disorientating, so deeply disorientating, so overwhelming, that the darkness itself, too much … and all becomes black … black, like this apocalyptic sky … such that one loses oneself, quite simply, in the darkness, of such a sky, and the eye, for a moment, itself, sees black, and is blinded, by the darkness, the immense darkness, of such a vision, becoming black, and blacking out, as if all is lost, and at an end.

And then, then especially.

Look, listen, watch, wait, learn.

Is there still breathing?

And is there then still, something, of you?

And, if so, then quietly, still quietly, let’s recall …

For then, and then especially, my friend, perhaps, look in, within, and, sky’s mind, mirror, recall the sky, that memory’s clear blue sky, still pool of paradise, sky reflected, so deep, within …

And may these words, like prayers, help us somehow to sketch again, to imagine again, just such a clear blue sky, there, out there, as reflected also here, in here, within, the eye, behind, and beyond, all, or at least, until again, until again, we see it so, and know it so, as of course it will be, sometime soon, already is, as deep down well …

(You know).

And in this way I do not have to imagine a clear blue sky, but only to open and lift up my eyes, and to allow the light to flood in, for it is there above me, viewed from exactly here where I am, where now I stand, and, when I look up, at this sky, it’s as if it catches me, in its light, embrace, of sky, light, unfiltered, and it’s almost as if the sky itself were somehow, in a sense, my mother, and as if the sky itself were somehow, in a sense, my father, catching me, in memory’s dear embrace, child of the sky, and, in this way, this sky serves then, somehow, as a reminder, a gentle reminder, that I am alive, still alive, and in this way the light, breathing, air, and stirring spirit, and inspiration, and thought, lifting up, seeking life, upon a breeze, a light, gentle breeze, makes me question, for a moment, if I am not, or if I am, myself, not for a moment, or for a moment, as if the very winds, of change, and that life itself, seeking life, itself, somehow, in the light, the illumination, is fanning us, again, into life, in this impulse, deeply human, stimulated, to look up, and look forward, and to reach out, arms outstretched, heart open, towards the sky, and to stand tall, and to search, and to search, and to search, the sky, for horizons, time’s changing horizons, observed, when seen, in each blinking eye, as if anew, and then imagining there, sometimes, upon the sky’s distant horizon, the beginning of hope, and possibility, and a calling, and a calling out, again, and a calling out, again, to dream.

And you will recall that, in reflection, the mind itself, sometimes, can seem this way; such that the mind, that opens, much, to perceive (as if to contain, or indeed to be), the sky, sees something like a vision, so beautiful, but at the same time so disorientating, so intensely disorientating, so overwhelming, that the beauty itself, too much … such that one loses oneself, in the sky, and the eye, for a moment, is dazzled, blind, in the immense clarity, that beauty’s bliss, of such a vision.

Such a beautiful clear blue sky; and one experiences it as vast, as boundless, and yet, and yet, contemplating, such a sky, a sky that appears to be perfectly empty, entirely without physical depth, there is, in the fleeting twinkling of an eye, an infinite moment, and that’s to say, time, eternal time, recognized, and for a moment known, with such depth, of clarity, that it’s something like an insight, as from a sparkling, diamond mind – even if, to whom we may refer – and whose insight – whose mind – who knows – such that, the who … no matter – for, simply speaking, one observes only …. Sky … and only sky … sky that is entirely clear, perfectly clear, and empty, like some vast, heavenly dome … and sky, revealing, only ever more, of itself … as if expanding … ever expanding … always expanding … into clarity, every greater clarity … and light … the sky … and the sky so clear, so blissfully clear, as if, all, were clear, and the sky, so clear, so blissfully clear, as if … all … as if all, were entirely clear … for just that moment … all clear … and only light, and only light, be only light; and indeed, there is no detail in such a clear blue sky upon which the eye can feed, obsess, hunt down, or seek to possess, becoming fixated; and what a surprise, that is – startling, almost a shock – startling, like someone abruptly woken up, in a start – such that, the reflection of such a sky, after such a start, relaxes, then, the eye, into something, perhaps, like freedom, an expanded vision, where you are at once lost, freed and, at the same time, the sky itself … all the sky itself … seen, somehow, itself, in beauty’s bliss … as that … that’s seeing … the seeing … all seeing … eye …

And it’s such a beautiful clear blue sky today; can you see it too?

And, as I write down these thoughts, these words, I feel so deeply blessed, for I am bathed now in light.

To look, to listen, to watch, to wait, to learn.

As if, the sky.

© Bede Nix, 21 September 2017. All rights reserved.

WE, THE ONE

I breathe in the light.
Breath, breathing, breathe; I breathe.
Breath, breathing, breathe; I breathe.
I breathe in the light.

I breathe in the light.
I breathe the light.
I breathe.
(Each breath of light).
Light, shallow breath; deep breath; breath of life.
I breathe.
I breathe the light.
I breathe in the light.

I breathe in the light.
And, it’s in that light, or, in the light, of that, that, still breathing, I breathe; and my eyes, open; opened wide, my eyes, in the light, in the light, of that; in the light, looking out; in the light, looking out, that I breathe.
I breathe in the light.

I breathe in the light, asking:
Am I, then? And am I, really?
And you? Are you, then, too? And, if two, where, and who, are we?
Where are you? Who are you? And are you really?
(Are you really, “the one”?)
I keep breathing; I keep on breathing, in the light.
I breathe in the light.

I breathe in the light.
I breathe in the light, asking:
If really the one, if really you, you are, really, and if really you are, and if really you are the one, then how shall I know, how shall I find you, recognize you, separate and save you from a great sea of strangers, and make your face, to me, not just familiar, but infinitely precious, infinitely dear, the one?

And what anyway do I mean, you mean, we mean, “the one”? What does it mean? All mean? What does it all mean? What, the meaning?

And I don’t understand, I simply do not understand, I simply do not understand why I’m thinking this way, or breathing, or is it, breathing, this way, and thinking, and thinking this way, and breathing, and breathing, and thinking, at the surface, in the depths, surface, depths, and the light, breathing, thinking, breathing, in the light, asking:
Who? Where? What? When? Why?
And must I, should I, shall I, then, keep on … the one … ?
(Breathing).
And I keep on breathing; I keep on breathing, in the light.
I breathe in the light.

I breathe in the light.
I breathe in the light, looking out.
I breathe in the light, looking out, wondering, where you are, who you are.
And, still breathing, in the light, I seek you, search you out, with eyes, hands, heart, seeking you, searching you out, wondering, where you are, who you are, if you are, and why, be, and why, am, I, and why, am I, and why am I, then, still struggling, still struggling, in this light, to find you, to feel you close, and seeing your face in but an instant, shine out, shine out, shine out, and, from the great sea of faces, shining out, separated, saved, distinct, and uniquely special, special, and unique, your face, from out of the sea of faces, shining out, shining out, from the face of humanity, to see, just you, at last, the one, to catch sight of you, recognize you, find you, know you, and to feel you then so close, so familiar, so dear, and to follow then each breath, each heartbeat, each thought, each emotion, each slightest motion, together, as one, one heart, one mind, one spirit, one soul, as you, to we, the one, breathing together, breathing, breathing together, and opening up the eyes, then, as wide as one can and, with eyes, wide open, opened wide, to see you more clearly, to catch sight of you, recognize you, find you, know you, the one, for in this way, clearly, comes light, more light, to see clearly, the light, so beautiful, upon your face, the one, and such beauty, so beautiful, and so dear, so dear, dear face, seeing, you, and seeing, seeing you, separated, saved, at last, from the great, great sea, the great, great sea, of faces, of faces, of stories, of stories, of faces, so many, and some, so many, some, so many, so beautiful, too, and all so beautiful, beautiful, breathtakingly beautiful, and so, so dear, this dear, dear face, this dear, dear face of humanity, and yet, still, still you, you are, the one, the only one–I think so–for whom I’ve eyes, to see, to see you, your beautiful, dear, dear face, the one, and that lovely smile, sea of faces, sea of love, ocean of love, ocean of joy–I think so–not drowning, clearly, but a little lost, and overwhelmed, and looking, looking out, and still, still seeking, searching, wondering, yes, wondering, yes, asking, simply asking–I think so, the one–and more light, clearly, more light, to see, to see clearly, to see, clearly, the one, the one, where you are, then, who you are, then, here, to me, I am, breathing, breathing, in the light, I am, the one.
The one.
Me.
I.
(And you?)
(And you?)
(Asking).
And …
Breathing, in the light.
And I breathe, in the light, looking out.
I breathe in the light.

And still I breathe, in the light.
I breathe, in the light, looking out.
And I look again up, look down,
Look to left, to right,
Turn to left, to right,
And turn in circles, in circles, turning, turning, whirling, whirling, turning, and turning around, and around, going around, and around, as if in circles, this turning world, blurred, bewildered, confused, where are you?
And, are you?
And, are you, even, somewhere, some place, someone, some, one, breathing?
And are you breathing?
Breathing, in the light, in the light, looking out, looking out, in the light, at the world; and this dream … for now … let’s call it … reality …
Reality, yes.
Let’s call it that.
And breathing, in the light, looking out.
And I breathe, in the light, looking out.
I breathe in the light.

(And, if, and if, my soul; and if my soul were singing out, to you, would you, would you show yourself, and come to me, at last? Would you come?)

And I breathe in the light.
I breathe, in the light, looking out.
I breathe, in the light, looking out, and waiting.
And I count the minutes, the hours, the days, the weeks, the months, the years …
I count the lifetimes.
And I’m surely growing old, growing so old, as I count the faces, and count the faces, and count …
The first, the second, the third, and so on … asking: are you the one? … Are you? … Or you? … Or you? … as if we’ve all the time in the world … waiting for all eternity … the one … for … all …eternity … are you? … and to pass … time … the one … time, passing … I count the faces, one by one … one time … counting … each … and every … face … and each, and every, face, counting … counting … waiting … waiting … breathing … breathing …
And I breathe, in the light, looking out.
I breathe in the light.

I breathe in the light, asking:
Are you, then, the one, right here, right now … standing here, before me … mystery … mirrored … momentarily … in my gaze … and, in this, your presence … a moment’s taste … of … eternity … the one … looking out, looking in … out there, within … the one … and … something … like … poetry … some kind of love poem, for each … and every … one … for each … and every … one … of … you … that is, looking out … for you … you … you … and you … and faces, many faces, so many faces … sea of faces … a song … music … an ocean … music … of love, and longing … love, and longing … asking:
Are you, then, the one? Or am I?
Am I, then, the one? Or are you?
Are they, then, the one?
Or are we?
No matter! For there you are, I see (mystery). The one. And here am I, I see (mystery). The one. And let’s, then, in our loving, at least, be free … and join together … as “we” … the one, the many. And let’s write, then, poetry, some kind of poetry … a poem … a woven fabric … a tapestry … of love … sing a song, of love … and a love song … a love song to each … and every … one … the one … the many … the all … to love … and all … thanks … all thanks … to … love … to you … love … to you … all love … to … you … all … love … all … love … to you … and all … love … to you … a mystery … all love … eternal …

And we breathe together in the light.
We breathe in the light.
Breath, breathing, breathe; I breathe.
Breath, breathing, breathe; I breathe.
We breathe in the light.
You. Me. We. The One.
We breathe, together, in the light.
We breathe, in the light.
We breathe the light.
We breathe.

And then, so suddenly, no more, the light?

And now?

Good night, then, my love; good night.

© Bede Nix, 14 February 2017. All rights reserved.

I THINKS YOU THOUGHTS WE

Infinitely empty, never to be filled.
And can you even see it, sense it?
Great energy, insight.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Yes, exactly.

And yes.
Yes, okay.
Let’s.
Let’s stop.
Let’s stop and think.
Let’s stop and think about it.
Let’s stop and think it through.
Let’s stop and think about it.
Let’s stop and think.
Let’s stop.
Let’s.
Okay.
Yes.
Yes.
And …

Me. You.
This. That.
Why?
Why not?
What?

Yes, exactly.

And let’s think about it, and again think about it, and again think about it, asking:
For what purpose, your creation?
And what, your calling? To what? To where? To who? To whom?
And, depending on your answers, ask yourself, I ask you:
Are you innocent, or guilty?
Should you be condemned, or forgiven?
Or are you, somehow, paradoxically, both innocent, and guilty?
At once condemned, and forgiven?
And, if so, if in the former, or the latter, then, in whose eyes? In the eyes, of whom? Whose I’s eyes sees you, to judge?
Me? You?
Peers?
Parents?
Children?
Forefathers, and mothers?
The living? The dead?
And so I ask you, ask yourself:
What do you think?
Who I?
Who you?
Who knew?

Yes, exactly.

For it is I, who thinks, thoughts, of you.
It is I.
Is it?
It is I.
You.
And I, who, you.
I You.
Thinks.
Thoughts.
Or so it somehow sounded, seemed, somehow.

Yes, exactly.

And I thinks to myself, yourself.
He, or she?
I, or we?
Thinking.
Thinks.
Thoughts.

Yes, exactly.

And I too, I think, I think so, too.
Who?
Knows.
Thinking.
Thinks.
Thoughts.

Yes, exactly.
Yes, exactly.
Yes, exactly.

And so I too, I think, I too, I think, thinks so, sometimes, thoughts, too.

And thoughts, then; thoughts, then; thoughts, then; thoughts.
Thinks.
Thoughts.

And, from the birth, of thought, thoughts, thoughts, thoughts; such that, from darkness, emptiness, nothing, nowhere, hidden, waiting, quietness, mind, breath, breath, breeze, spirit, insight, birth, thought.

And thoughts, then; thoughts, then; thoughts, then; thoughts.

And, birth of thought, thinking, thoughts, thinks, thoughts, if not, necessarily, in a flash, then in a spark, small spark, bright spark of an idea, and, from that seeming, darkness, of ignorance, unnoticed, unseen, forgotten, ignored, there is hidden, waiting, quietness, mind, breath, breeze, spirit, sounding, vibrant, coming, being, becoming, being, real, alive, insight, birth, thought.

And, with each tiny spark, fragment, shard, splinter, shattered splinter, from fullest expression, creative possibility, boundless, comes this unfolding, revelation, and our creative, creativity, our collective, genius, like so many, and like so many, missing, missing, pieces, pieces, puzzle, puzzling, putting it, puzzlingly, together, together, now, in gradual, emergence, convergence, rumination, illumination, the mindful, let’s say, thinking, thinks, thoughts, I thinks.

Such that, from tiny fragment, of thought, word, world.

And, in this way, perhaps, a thought, in the beginning, beginning.

And, in the beginning, beginning, a thought, word, world.

A thought, word, world.

In the beginning, beginning.

Yes, exactly.

And who would have thought it?
The birth of thought!
And so yes, yes let’s.
Let’s try gently to catch it, that thought, and gently to hold it, hold on to it, write it down, write it now, at once, that thought, thinking, and, with it, like a light, like a sun, like a newly revealed sun, to salute the dawn, and seize the day …
For perhaps our most vital, important, valuable, labour, human labour, may be, may well be, be well, in truth, the work, the labour, of dreamers, songsters, storytellers, poets, and bards, marginal, each one, but transforming barriers, into frontiers, transforming barriers, into frontiers, and each marginal, eccentric, one, engaged, at the edge, at the margin, far, from the centre, far, from the centre, seemingly lazy, and perhaps, or probably, by definition, half-crazy, in a labour, a birth, of the imagination, our most vital, important, valuable, labour, human labour, being a work, a labour, of the imagination, and working, in this way, our minds, as, at other times, we work, or, as once, we worked, and cultivated, our fields, and going, that is, to the ground, and preparing, that is, the ground, and cultivating, that is, the ground, and giving, ourselves, to the ground, adding, ourselves, to the ground, being, ourselves, the ground, and, being, being, ground, the ground, grounded, earthed, and digging, deep, digging, deep, and, having been digging, deep, digging, deep, digging, deeper, still, to dig, and still, to dig, then, deeper, deeper, deeper, still, and deeper, deeper, deeper, still, keep digging, deep, and digging, deep, and digging, deep, and don’t you think, and don’t you think, and don’t you think?
And yes, exactly.

For I, think, thinks, thoughts.
I. You. We.
Think, thinks, thoughts.
That’s all.
Just so.

And yes.
And yes, exactly.

But how are we to know, I ask you?
How are we to know?
And how are we to know, and understand?
To know, and understand, when we’re digging, digging, digging, in the true, the right, the sought for, place, and following the right direction, the right line, and discovering, and entering, as it were, in this way, the right field, the right ground, and the right zone, right?
And how will we know?

Yes, exactly.

Well, we’ll know, that’s all, we’ll simply know.
And I think, thinks, says it, so.
For it’s all energy, my friend, great energy; just go with the flow!

Yes, exactly.

And we can name this great energy using as many names as there are words in a language: ida, and pingala, for example; or human, animal, plant; or sun, wind, earth, fire, water; or planetary, cosmic, universal … and yet, it’s in some sense, and in no sense, everything, nothing, all the same; no matter …

Energy.

Great energy.

Boundless, infinite.

Go, go, go …

Just go, with the flow.

And when it finds its expression, in I, become You, in voice, vocation, it finds, we, heart, together, human, human, heart, heart, home, and, brave, strong, the human, human, heart, knows, the way, the path, home, and so, surrenders, and so, surrenders, and only, surrenders, at last, and surrenders, at last, to, thinking, thinks, thoughts, and, understanding, standing, understood, simply surrenders, and only, surrenders, trusts, walks, and walks, walks, walks, its way, seen, in insight, trusted, supported, revealed, surrendered, our destination, and destiny.

And so it is, perhaps, that, when you’re on the right track, you’ll know it, and when you’re on the right track, you’ll know it, for your energy, your energy, your energy, will feel, enormous, huge, boundless, infinite … and enough, and more than enough, and enough … to move mountains … as, very easily, spontaneously, naturally, and intuitively, flying, with the breath, across the landscape, of these, your lungs, you discover, give voice to, your tongue, and discover, give expression, give voice, to this, to this, to this, in call, response, echo, of this, (your) (mother) land, and this, (your) (father) land, and, in, this, way, to sing, the songs, to sing, the songs, of the ground, the land, the earth, your birth, or earth, or ground, or land, or chosen, land, choosing, where there, where there, the landscape, sets, your heart, on fire, and inspires, your breath, your soul, to sing, and there, where there, where there, the land, is familiar, and a place, perhaps, of memory, family, home, be it day, night, sun, moon, desert, mountains, lakes, rivers, streams, marshland, bogs, forests, fields, or steppe, endless steppe, endless steppe, steppe, steppe, steppe after steppe after steppe after steppe, and …

Steppe. Steppe. Steppe.

You’ll know, I know.

Yes, exactly.

Such that, here now, a breeze, a subtle breeze, spark of thought, burnt earth, fertile ground, looking up, reaching up, open eyes, open hands, open hearts, to see, touch, sky, blue, mind, boundless, bliss.

© Bede Nix, Astana, Expo 2017, August 2017. All rights reserved.

ONLY THAT, I AM

Draw down the full moon into the echoing chamber of the mouth, the eyes closing, the ears opening, the heart, calling out, to love, and the mind, quite still, I am, and listen, there, to the depth of quiet vibration, and the sound, that is forever taking shape and, with the seeming slowness of all eternity, the sound that gives rise, slowly, to inner conviction, and knowing, and certainty, and wisdom, and that knows, that that, that knows, that that, that inner that, that sees, and meditates, upon that great vision, the great vision, that, being, for the moment, only me, and only you, is also being, for the moment, and for always, only that.

© Bede Nix, September 2017. All rights reserved.

THIS TOO, MY LOVE, IS YOU

These first, warm, waking, dreams, intimate, of joy, in life, for which, no words, but see, and hear, and touch, and smell, and taste; as, in this, this dreaming, this dreaming delight, of my awakening, in soft, sleepy, eyes, you are, my vision; and the warmth, too, of your breast, breathing deep, then shallow, again deep, again shallow, my gently open hand, you are; and the bright taste, too, of your nipple, teased awake, and now alert, my curious, restless touch, this too, this too, you are; and this, this extraordinary, wondrous, magnificent, and so, so lovely, human landscape, sublime, on which, body, of humanity, I rest, now, these restless thoughts, my mind, my weight of head, desiring, as if again, as if again, again, to sleep, perchance, to dream, and to dream again, of this, this life, this time, and of mountains, and lakes, forests, and rivers, woodland, and fields, and to dream, and to dream again, of this, this life, this time, and of once were dreams of childhood summers, somehow, and liberty, and innocence, and of warm sands, bright sun, sea breeze, and a glorious, carefree, youth, and this too, my body, this too, my body, your body, naked, you are, you are naked, I am naked, I know; and this, then, too, this feeling, I feel it, feeling, flowing, as in a stream, a stream, of pleasure, and reverie, and thought, and sensation, and joy, that simply expands, and expands, and expands, and that’s simply expanding, somehow, ever, forever, like a seed that seeks fulfillment of its potential, and its destination, its destiny, such that this, this soft, tender, opening, now, to the world, this too, this too, you are, and fire, burning, my desire, with such great energy, vitality, lust, and longing, and burning, burning, for more, yet more, and more, yet more, and yet it’s clearly enough, and yet never enough, enough, and yet, at the same time, not enough, this lonely life, and longing, this lonely life, and longing, alone, and not, and alone, and not now alone, my tongue, in poetry’s parting lips, to sing, in breath, in breath, by heavenly breath, and heavenly breath, breathing, and yet always, somehow, breathless, my soul, still breathless, and gasping, for air, and grasping, for the air, for the breath, for the spirit, of the divine, and this too, this too, in dawning light, my love … for the divine, somehow, somewhere, here, or there, and here, and there, and this, this too, you are (I am), and this, this too, as – thirsty, as the earth, for your rain – hungry, as the flowers, for your sunlight – impatient, as the night, for your day – so that our song sounds this, at last, and sounds this, this too, this too, in dawning light, of day, new day, and new day’s morning song, as, singing – who? – we are, for this too, my love, this too, an ocean of bliss, sky blue, is you.

© Bede Nix, September 2017. All rights reserved.

THAT'S ALL

Losing oneself, a little, one self, in deep relaxation, as if, there, you are, no longer, one, or are you, there, even there, at all, as if, at times, sometimes, happening, something, sensing, something, one thing, one feeling, feeling, and picking up on, flowing into, sometimes, some lower, deeper, frequency, or vibration, hearing, as if, something, like, a low, humming, sound, always present, always there, and yet, so rarely, so very rarely, if ever, heard, perhaps, or never, heard, perhaps, or never ever, even, at all, perhaps, heard, and really heard, and really heard, and yet, yet still, it’s there, then, listening, and, let’s some one say, then, that one, not one, as only one, lonely one, and one, indeed, alone, just imagining, hearing, only hearing, the stillness, the silence, from where, that is, that, that, one, senses, only, observes, only, sees, only, plays, only, the energies, the deeper energies, the wave, the circle, the spiral, the flow, and there, then, trusting, all, and, trusting, all, is well, is, well, the magic, of the moment, for a moment, seeming, then, there, almost, to dance, here, and now, upon the air, where we are, who we are, and, here, there, to sparkle, in your eyes, your eyes’s reflection, and your eyes, that is, those eyes, that, are, that, that’s, seeing, then, here, there, forever, now, this vision, singular, in verse, in universe, such beauty. And so you breathe gently in, breathe gently out; open your heart, your arms, lift up your eyes, stand tall; and call it love; that’s all.

© Bede Nix, 16 September 2017. All rights reserved.

YES TO ALL

(A Poem For My Son)

Listen, my child, let’s see if we cannot just quieten our chattering thoughts, for a second, and set aside our oh so clever intellects; and lose our heads, as it were – just for a minute, I promise; and instead, just trust our feelings.

Animal instinct, we’ll call it.

And, if you like, and if it helps, here, take my hand.

(And I’d hold your hand forever, my child, if you wished, and if I could; and even then, the time would pass by too quickly; for forever would never ever be enough time to stand with you, by your side, hand in hand. And, yes, yes, I know, yes yes, I know, and I know only, and all, too well. For you don’t need my hand at all, truth to tell, do you? For you’re already far too confident, and independent, for that. And that’s only right, and natural. But at least here, in these words, on the page, I can still extend, still extend my hand to you, and to tell you that my hand will always be there for you, to hold, to hold your hand, hold hands, for when you need, or should you wish, just so, and said, without, I trust, too much embarrassment, at least I hope so).

And so, with a hand, or with no hand, whichever the case may be, please just trust me now, this once, on this one, no need to think, or fret, but take it easy, breathe freely, and let it go.

And indeed, abandoning all control, let’s just close our eyes, shall we, as if to pray.

And we’ll close our eyes (and, at least in my imagination, in my thoughts, hand in hand), simply observing, within, we’ll … well … we’ll … well … we’ll … well … just relax … into waiting … and waiting … and waiting … saying, let’s just wait and see …

For the thought is evolving, of that we can be sure; indeed, we can take that one on trust, if I may say so, as if in faith.

And it’s coming, this thought, this expression of thought; it’s coming …

And it’s like the seeds, you see, that begin, in spring, to shoot,

And the flowers, that blossom, and bloom,

And the trees, bearing in some cases such sweet, such succulent, fruit,

In their season, the rhythm, of days, and nights, sun, and moon, the light, and light’s absence, lit up, by the brilliance, of stars, galaxies, and galaxies, of them, and each bright, blinking, and twinkling, every one,

And all fed, as by the birds, and the bees, and watered, as by the rains, from skies above,

The oceans, and the seas,

The rivers, and the streams,

The mountains, and the forests, and the fields,

And all the living, moving, breathing, being, things, and that’s to say, let’s make a list, then, shall we, lest we forget; now let me think …

(And I just said not to think!)

(Oh Papi!)

But thinks, and thinking, even so …

(For sometimes one just can’t help it; it’s just the way we’re made; it’s in our DNA).

And it’s in any case coming, this thought, this expression of thought; it’s in any case coming …

For what we’re talking about here, lest we forget, let me think, is all those living, moving, breathing, being, things, like …

The Alpaca, and the Antelope,

The Cockroach, and the Caterpillar,

The Zebra, and the Hippopotamus,

The Ant, and the Octopus!

And that’s not all, of course.

It’s just that, well … I’ve already got myself lost … I’ve got a bit lost … distracted, perhaps … lest we forget …

Where was I?

Ah yes, that’s right.

It’s coming back to me now.

For it’s still coming along, this thought, this expression of thought; indeed, it’s coming along quite nicely …

For it’s like the seeds, you see, that begin, in spring, to shoot,

And the flowers, that blossom, and bloom,

And the trees, bearing in some cases such sweet, such succulent, fruit,

In their season, the rhythm, of days, and nights, sun, and moon, the light, and light’s absence, lit up, by the brilliance, of stars, galaxies, and galaxies, of them, and each bright, blinking, and twinkling, every one,

And all fed, as by the birds, and the bees, and watered, as by the rains, from skies above,

The oceans, and the seas,

The rivers, and the streams,

The mountains, and the forests, and the fields,

And all the living, moving, breathing, being, things, and that’s to say …

Where was I?

Ah yes, that’s right; let’s go on with our list, and even make a longer list, shall we? Yes, let’s … lest we forget; okay, now let me think …

Where were we?

That’s right.

We were …

The Earwig, and the Elephant,

The Buffalo, and Butterfly,

The Giraffe, and the Guinea-Pig,

The Crocodile, and Crow,

The Whale, and the Walrus,

Not forgetting the Parrot, and the Peacock, and the Vole,

The Dog, and Donkey,

The Turkey, Toad,

The Wolf, and Weasel,

The Lobster, and Lion,

The Hamster, and the Hen,

And then the Cow, the Chameleon, and the Kangaroo,

The Penguin, and the Pussy Cat,

The Monkey, and the Water Rat,

The Dragonfly, and Mole,

The Hedgehog, and Ladybird, and Koala Bear,

The Slug, and Salamander,

The Lamb, and then the little Mouse, just over there,

Behind the Spider, and the Snail …

And yes; and yes; and yes; and yes, I know …; that’s not it all …at all … at all …

For the list is not exhaustive, dear child, nor even alphabetical, let’s admit.

For structure was never quite my thing; and nor should it or ever could it have been.

For it’s the natural world, after all; we’re best enjoying it just as it comes, shouldn’t you say, and don’t you think?

But yes, you’re right, it’s true.

Another might have said, first this, then, that, first A, then B, then C, and so on, to M, to O, and Y, and one day, and some day, and there you are at last, my friend, you’ve made it, you’re at Z (and fast asleep, more likely than not; dead beat).

But no, that’s not my style; that’s not me, at all.

And that’s the whole point, indeed.

For, starting with this thought, that’s still coming along, this thought, this expression of thought, just nicely; it’s still coming along just nicely …

And it’s just the natural world, you see. It’s nature. Seemingly all over the place, but actually following each thing its rhythm, and reason, and purpose …

Like the seeds, you see, that begin, in spring, to shoot,

And the flowers, that blossom, and bloom,

And the trees, bearing in some cases such sweet, such succulent, fruit,

In their season, the rhythm, of days, and nights, sun, and moon, the light, and light’s absence, lit up, by the brilliance, of stars, galaxies, and galaxies of them, and each bright, blinking, and twinkling, every one,

And all fed, as by the birds, and the bees, and watered, as by the rains, from skies above,

The oceans, and the seas,

The rivers, and the streams,

The mountains, and the forests, and the fields,

And all the living, moving, breathing, being, things, and that’s to say, well …

What?

To say what?

And should we go on with our list, or not?

Shall we, or shall we not?

Or shall we stop?

But …

Wait, wait, wait …

Where was I?

Where were we?

For it seems to me now that we’re forgetting some one, or two, in me, and you, for we’re here too, don’t forget, like so many animals, and also a part, of the natural, world. For it’s not a zoo, you know, it’s nature; and we’re nature, too. And seemingly all over the place, especially me, but actually following each one his rhythm, her rhythm, our rhythm, and reason, and purpose …

Listen, my child, let’s see if we cannot just quieten our chattering thoughts, for a second, and set aside our oh so clever intellects; and lose our heads, as it were – just for a minute, I promise; and instead, just trust our feelings.

Animal instinct, we’ll call it.

And, if you like, and if it helps, here, take my hand.

(And I’d hold your hand forever, my child, if you wished, and if I could; and even then, the time would pass by too quickly; for forever would never ever be enough time to stand with you, by your side, hand in hand. And, yes, yes, I know, yes yes, I know, and I know only, and all, too well. For you don’t need my hand at all, truth to tell, do you? For you’re already far too confident, and independent, for that. And that’s only right, and natural. But at least here, in these words, on the page, I can still extend, still extend my hand to you, and to tell you that my hand will always be there for you, to hold, to hold your hand, hold hands, for when you need, or should you wish, just so, and said, without, I trust, too much embarrassment, at least I hope so).

And so, with a hand, or with no hand, whichever the case may be, please just trust me now, this once, on this one, no need to think, or fret, but take it easy, breathe freely, and let it go.

And indeed, abandoning all control, let’s just close our eyes, shall we, as if to pray.

And we’ll close our eyes (and, at least in my imagination, in my thoughts, hand in hand), simply observing, within, we’ll … well … we’ll … well … we’ll … well … just relax … into waiting … and waiting … and waiting … saying, let’s just wait and see …

For the thought is evolving, of that we can be sure; indeed, we can take that one on trust, if I may say so, as if in faith.

And it’s coming, this thought, this expression of thought; it’s coming …

And it’s like the seeds, you see, that begin, in spring, to shoot,

And the flowers, that blossom, and bloom,

And the trees, bearing in some cases such sweet, such succulent, fruit,

In their season, the rhythm, of days, and nights, sun, and moon, the light, and light’s absence, lit up, by the brilliance, of stars, galaxies, and galaxies, of them, and each bright, blinking, and twinkling, every one,

And all fed, as by the birds, and the bees, and watered, as by the rains, from skies above,

The oceans, and the seas,

The rivers, and the streams,

The mountains, and the forests, and the fields,

And all the living, moving, breathing, being, things, and that’s to say …

Relax, my child, relax.

Nature knows what she’s doing.

And we, for our part, can simply enjoy this extraordinary opportunity that we have been given to read widely from, and to study, her book, saying:

Yes. Yes. Yes.

And …

Yes, to all.

© Bede Nix, 1 March 2014. All rights reserved.

THE MIND'S EYE

When the mind’s eye dwells always in contemplation upon itself, great liquid body of sparkling light, reflecting cloud and mountain upon the still face of the waters, clear blue lake of heaven, and when mind’s thought dwells at once upon the surface, and in the depth, of time, then may heart and head, earth and sky, be understood, again, as one.

© Bede Nix, 14 December 2016. All rights reserved.

THERE WHERE THE SUN

A bank of snow cloud can, as it drifts across the horizon, appear as something indescribably grey, or even black, and as something so heavy, weighty, threatening, portentous, that the sky bears the burden of it only with difficulty, and this the reason for it looking somehow so thick, ugly, and threatening, like fists closed in anger and frustration, spoiling for a fight, the energy taut, tight, weighed down, pushed down, compressed, oppressed, and waiting, drifting, drifting, waiting, as if waiting to be at last free from all this weight, and liberated.

(And all these flurrying thoughts, in my mind, are themselves like so much weight, and noise).

But then, once released, liberated, and grounded, how calming its quiet, soft, gentle whisper, and how reassuringly intimate, and warming, this smooth white blanket of snow.

And look there, then; do you see?

It’s so bright!

(There where the sun shines through).

© Bede Nix, 2017. All rights reserved.

THE MOON, BRIGHT

The moon, bright, floats upon the clear night sky.

The poet hangs out words like laundry on a line, picking out one at a time, with care, and seeing each word, albeit naively, as for the very first time, something fresh, and as good as new; and, for all the modesty of the task, he looks for poetry there, among these words that blow about in the breeze; and he looks, also – sometimes – maybe – for a sense of something, like an end to longing.

The moon, bright, floats upon the clear night sky.

(This, at any rate, is how the line began).

The moon, bright, floats upon the clear night sky, like a thought to which – mindful, if entranced – the poet returns, obsessively, again and again; a thought as lucid as only a dream may be, sleeping fitfully.

And he gazes up at her, so far away; he strains to see again her face; and he drinks, in his delirium, of the taste of her, so fine; and a more delicious taste, like the taste of a fruit, ripening in his thoughts, he’d never tasted, he swore.

And in such a way, in his upside down imagination, the images wording his sleep, his memory, he plunges into her again as if the sky were like a sea, and she a disc of pure white gold. And then he looks harder, peering into the dream like a man losing sight; but then, in a blaze of light, to catch himself diving, deep – bitter, sweet – salty, sharp –into the colour blue, of bliss. And he knows it’s her.

And in such a way she reaches out to him – or so, at least, is the logic of his dream – in wave upon wave of desire, each fresh wave taking him further, then further still, drawing him down and down (or up and up), deep delight, delicious upon the salt sweet lips and tongue until, at last, washed up, exhausted, he falls upon her sandy shores, so warm, to sleep.

I’ll embrace her then, he thinks.

I’ll embrace her again and again.

For only the poet dares to drink deeply of her, gulping her down, thirsty for more and ever more of her, the White Goddess, his muse, and the gaze of the milky moon.

But then she, not indifferent, exactly, but quiet, cool, turns her back: this is her part. And he – bleeding in his ignorance – begins clumsily to stir, and fumbles for a line of poetry he fails to find, switches on a light.

And the poet hangs out words like laundry on a line, picking out one at a time, with care, and seeing each word, albeit naively, as for the very first time, something fresh, and as good as new; and, for all the modesty of the task, he looks for poetry there, among these words that blow about in the breeze; and he looks, also – sometimes – maybe – for a sense of something, like an end to longing.

And the poet, never quite satisfied, entirely, whimpers tearfully towards the moon, lonely in his solitude for something only instinct might recognize, as company.

(Or so he thinks.)

And as a bell strikes five of the morning he takes a pen, some paper, even so.

© Bede Nix, 2017. All rights reserved.

SAKURA

(With deep gratitude to Imre Thormann, whose Butoh workshop inspired these words.
www.bodytaster.com)

Sakura
(Cherry Blossom)

Be still for a moment.

Stand still.

Stay still.

Remain.

Still.

Be still.

Present.

(A gift).

Standing, still.

Understanding …

One may find inspiration there, or here. (In the unlikely places).

A child’s spiral coil, for example. Or a skeleton dangling at the end of a sprung chain. Old-fashioned wooden toys, perhaps a cat or a dog, or a donkey, that dance at your will. A bouncing ball. A sheet of white fabric held out, then allowed to fall. The ways in which things move. Energy.

Fold; flow; coil; curl; spiral; stretch; turn …

Vibrations in energy.
(Subtle vibrations).

All this energy must eventually be earthed, it seems.
Respect the pull of gravity.
The weight of things.
Inertia.

(Reading Alan Watts. In his words, then: Every approach to the limit of absolute inertia condenses by inversion into a departure from the limit of absolute energy. Flip – total void equals big bang.)

The body is heavy, its energy spiralling down towards the earth.
The body is also light, however; its energy spirals back up, from the earth to the sky. It bounces back.
The body is earth, yes.
And yet the body is water, too; in fact mostly water.
Something a little muddy, then.
Like wet, fecund earth.

And now imagine the organs, the bones, floating around as if in a balloon filled with water; and everything is fluid, soft.

Think, too, of a baby’s body; the body of a baby, when relaxed, is naturally very soft, and malleable. A rag doll body.

And think in terms of circles or balls. Imagine that you are balancing on a ball, first of all. Then imagine, too, that you are holding a ball, with both hands, in front of you. The head; the upper body, the chest region; the middle body, the tummy region; imagine each of these as a circle or ball of energy.

Think, then, about how your body moves and turns.
The axes of the body.
Horizontal. Vertical.
(And you yourself are always in the middle of things; you are always at the centre.)
Imagine a line, a cord, running from top to bottom of the body, like a puppet; and this, your spinal cord, open, and long. A long, straight line, more or less. Aligned.

Aim to be aligned, then.
Alignment.
Going with the flow.

Now make small movements away from the vertical and think of these small movements as expressions of, or responses to, emotion. Try to open up the solar plexus, the heart. Allow this impulse, this impulse to be more open, to extend up through the neck, the open mouth, the eyes looking up to the sky, the head thrown back.

And it is important that the jaw be as soft and as relaxed as possible. Adopt the face of someone a little like yourself, indeed, a simpleton, an idiot. (Only teasing). Allow the jaw to relax, and the mouth to drop open, all loose.

Be intelligent, too. Connect to a balance between the ears, to a correct positioning of the jaw, to a correct alignment of the spine. And at all times be aware of your feet, and their degree of balance or imbalance. The feet are your roots to the earth.

Ask yourself: why do you move?
What impulses cause you to move?

Heartbeat; pulse; impulse; rhythm; movement; reaction; attraction; desire.

The foetus develops first as ear, as hearing: you are above all a response to sound.
There is sound. And you yourself, in some sense, are the echo.
There is an incantation, a calling out, a question: and you are the response, the answer.
And that’s okay; it sounds fine.

Now, standing, perhaps also swaying a little, back and forth, like a reed in a breeze, be aware of that point at which, falling forward, moving forward, becomes inevitable.

And already here there is illumination and a key to understanding life. How to express this understanding?

As follows. In life, one cannot always test the next step; one must simply trust, have blind faith, step out, walk. Is it not so?

And this walk, properly understood, is a walk towards – or into – death. There is no turning back.

How to enjoy this walk? How to derive from it a maximum of pleasure, satisfaction, intensity, beauty, meaning?

‑ Butoh: the dance of the dark night ‑

Now imagine a little old lady, gnarled, haggard, greatly aged, stooped low, and barely able to lift her head let alone to walk. Yet walk on she does. Slowly; extraordinarily slowly, and deliberately, and consciously, she walks on. And can you slow yourself down so as, not to pass her, but rather, to follow her, walking a little way behind, and ever so, ever, so, slowly? Can you accompany her on her way, at her pace, her speed?

This old lady appears to be so old – so old, in your eyes – that she seems somehow ageless, strangely, like time itself, and yet still she walks on, walking on, along a long, long avenue of cherry blossom, symbol of short‑lived spring. And each pink cherry blossom falls in a perpetual stream of colour, each petal a moment of life, an experience, a thought, a memory; and the blossom sparkle and glitter in the blazing spring light, like diamonds in the mind.

Settling upon the earth, each cherry blossom nourishes the dead who lie beneath: yes, for it is the dead who make up the material of this long road, and the path itself a mosaic of rotting flesh, decomposing corpses atop the dry bones of the long dead.

The old woman, walking slowly forward, contemplates with pleasure the cherry blossom as they settle at her feet, falling one by one to earth. And only once do you see her look up to admire the cherry trees themselves.

And I want you to do something extraordinary, now.
I want you to imagine that you are one of these cherry trees.
I want you to imagine that you are the cherry blossom, falling to the earth.
I want you to imagine that you are the old woman, walking slowly on.
I want you to imagine that you are the old woman, who is dying.
I want you to imagine that you are the old woman, who is dead.
I want you to imagine that you are the old woman; and you are death itself.
And I want you to imagine that flowers fall from your open mouth; and from your nose; and from your ears; and from your eyes.
And I want you to imagine, now, that you are the path.
For you, too, belong among the dead.
And you, too, are one of the ancestors.

Earth to earth.
Ashes to ashes.
Dust to dust.

Let’s call it this, then: an imaginative experience of one’s own death. And from the immense darkness of such an experience, and knowledge, one awakens to a new life, full of hope and promise, energy, and light.

Dance, then, to the dance of the cherry blossom, falling.

For this is beauty, now.

And how sweet are the taste of tears; they quench a deep thirst.

© Bede Nix, 1 February 2009. All rights reserved.

SOMETIMES A NAME

 Some Thoughts on Life and Death

Sometimes it is enough simply to repeat a person’s name, holding them lovingly and gratefully in mind. Sometimes calling out a name is simply the best you can do. And sometimes a name is all you have.

Recall the names of your loved ones, departed; hold them dear.
*
My thoughts turn to you.

To you I write these words.
*
To honour the dead is to find within ourselves the courage to face that which remains otherwise unspeakable: the deaths of the dearly departed, and the death, too, that waits for us alone. It is to find the courage ‑ the heart ‑ to go to (and into) that ground. And having once risen up to the heavens, standing proud, and tall ‑ boy, girl, man, woman ‑ it is to think to the earth and to the prospect of being one day earthed ourselves, at the last. It is to think to know a little, already now, of a natural great peace; to be whole, one.

‑ Rest in Peace ‑

May you rest in natural great peace, now and always.
*
In an obscure way, it is sometimes the dead themselves who offer us the gift of this great courage. Recalling their example swells the heart and gives us the strength and confidence to go on. Our ancestors; the one‑time elders of our community; our sources of inspiration, our role models, our teachers; our brothers and our sisters; our fathers and our mothers; our children, breaking heart; we need never feel alone; come close.
*
‑ My heart’s memory turns to you. ‑
*
I risk losing myself in a confusion of words, words stumbling to draw near to something that shall perhaps never find expression: the silence of the grave. Before death one is always at a loss for words: silenced by death, words fail us. And that’s okay too, I guess.

(May death be my forgiveness).
*
The word “confused”, incidentally, means literally “fused with”, i.e. a state where for a time we lose our bearings, our direction, our habitual sense of self, our way. A fire flames up within us that threatens – or promises – to purge us wholly of (or at least to distract us from) our small, separate selves. We draw too near to that flame; naturally, we get burnt.

The powerful emotional charge present at times of profound change naturally renders us confused, without words, dumb, numb. How to gain insight from within the midst of an intense emotion?

In thinking, keep to the simple, advises Lao‑Tsu. And the solution – let’s face it – may be simpler than one thinks, or fears.

Pierce the confusion, then, and simply face it: hold up death as a mirror to your life and learn to gaze unflinchingly upon your reflection there.

Touch the earth; go into the ground; look to the dead.

In doing so, you receive a reminder that beyond all change is that which does not change, which knows nothing of change, just as, looking beyond life, what one comes to see is death. Life, then, is like the upturned face of a coin. The other side of the coin ‑ giving life its currency, its value ‑ is death.

(Small change? No, I don’t think so.)

The word “understanding”, after all, means literally “standing under”. And where better to develop understanding – that which is to be found, the pro‑found – than there where the earth has been dug deeply and then engraved upon, the silence of the grave beginning subtly to sound as grave voice, low, deep, comforting, inviting, calling out.

‑ My heart’s memory turns to you. ‑
*
To honour the dead is to unearth an inexhaustibly rich and fertile ground of inspiration: a ground that as you cultivate it, labour upon it, work it, turn it, returns you again and again to life. It is to know that we are each and every one of us but a sigh of breath between earth and sky, thin as air. In this we share a common humanity.

I repeat: to honour the dead is to turn our thoughts again to the living. It is to think afresh about those who cross our path, the relationships that subsequently develop, the growing trust and mutual respect, the emerging friendship and love. It is to hold everything and everyone dear.

(From the perspective of death, all falls into place).

‑ My heart’s memory turns to you. ‑
*

What to do?
What to do?
What will you do?

What do you do?

(It’s a question one hears often.)

How do you spend your time?

Who are you?

And – the question of perhaps greatest significance – who do you wish to become?

(In the face of death).

Who do you wish to be?

For my part, I have yet to find any succinct or satisfactory answers to these questions: what is to be done? As is true of most and perhaps all of us, I do many things, I am many people; indeed, each human life seems sometimes but a flare of intense energy through the blur of which this or that relationship, role, activity, job, hobby, whim, wish, longing, desire, passion, or dream, may prove to be of at best only partial, incomplete significance; only partial, incomplete significance compared, that is, to the lifelong mystery of a more expansive and complex human whole.

(A matter of small change?)

(Small changes).

Let me say this, at least. I am someone who devotes time ‑ when time there is ‑ to wondering about the world, in words. I try to take note of what I see and of what I hear and of what I taste and sense and feel, and of what I think about all this. I try, too, to take note of what I know and of what I’ve yet to learn. I write out these notes in words, in notebooks. And then I read these almost as musical notation, listening for the harmony. I try to make sense of my notes; I try to make some sense of my written‑out world. I try to work things out. I fail, mostly; a failure that leaves me often with a tremendous sense of loss, as now.

(Dear You).

Be that as it may, I take the decision – open hands, open arms, open heart, open mind ‑ not to leave these words like so many scattered ashes, but rather, calling out your name, to see them lift off the page so as to take fresh form, perhaps, in an expression found elsewhere, in other hands, other eyes, other lips, other hearts, and living longer that way.

Why write at all if not to share words of courage in the face of death: words released like prayers upon the wind.

And as the memory of you will at times be as living company ‑ to me as to many others ‑ may these words be also as company to you, with all gratitude and love.

These words are my only offering; and it seems to me, at least at this time, that I’ve nothing to share with you of greater worth, greater value. May these words speak meaningfully to you; may they keep you company.

A prayer for the living and for the dead.
*
Giving thought to someone, sometimes it is enough simply to repeat their name, holding them lovingly and gratefully in mind. Sometimes calling out a name is simply the best you can do. And sometimes a name is all you have.

‑ My heart’s memory turns to you. ‑

In deep gratitude.

© Bede Nix, 30 November 2010. All rights reserved.

MY LIFE AS A WORM

I eat letters!

And I could read before I could walk, as the saying goes.

My mother read to me and with me from an early age, and she taught and encouraged me to learn to read as soon as I could.

(She also said that I was “an open book”; she could read me like a book … )

Family myth has me giving a “public reading” (to a group of extended family members) when I was an impossibly young age.

Can it really be that at the age of three, or four, I could already read?

I doubt it.

But certainly I began to read alone when still relatively young, and I could read more or less well by the time I began my formal schooling.

I am aware that in those days this may not have been something in any way exceptional; it was perhaps quite normal.

There is a Russian-language expression that says that, “A book makes the best gift”.

And, if so, with what gratitude must we thank those who teach us to read?

(A book may be a source of great knowledge and wisdom.)

Anyway …

To read.

To read alone.

I could read before I could walk, as the saying goes.

But after years of dim reflection, I realized that the upshot of all this ridiculous reading precocity was that, as a walker, I was a late developer.

Indeed, my reading skills had outpaced my walking abilities from the outset. And like many an Oxford baby, I fear that I quickly concluded that the body existed only as a way of transporting the brain from one place to another. And apart from an ability to pick up and carry three or four books at a time, I possessed no great physical or sporting prowess as a young man. And now, as an old man, matters have gone from bad to worse.

And basically I’ve been “running behind” since the outset, out of shape, out of breath and, to all but the most compassionate, patient, and forgiving, quite out of mind.

And is it then any wonder that I never quite made it to the status of “walking encyclopaedia”.

I think again to my father, who spent many years working on building sites. He occasionally commented to me that he had spent his life carrying around bricks, whereas in my case I carried books.

And, like Gorky, I can say that all that is good in me is thanks to books.

But the habit of reading alone, a passion for reading, also condemned me from an early age to a life of deep solitude and at all times a preference for silence over speech, reflection over action; in other words, it condemned me, to some extent, to the life of someone socially inept, slow in thought and a terrible bore.

But listen to this.

Around the time that I began to attend school I became excessively self-conscious. And with that excessive self-consciousness I came to realize that something terrible had happened to me in my early and formative years. I was no longer a normal, human boy. I had turned into a worm. A book worm. And from that moment on I realized that my destiny was to be pulled, squeezed, or outright crushed. And all of these experiences I would view with the distorted vision of someone absurdly short-sighted, hopelessly myopic. It was to be a worm’s life for me.

But it wasn’t all bad, of course, and life as a worm seemed in fact at first quite juicy. Indeed, in my gilded youth, and in my solitary bookishness, and long before the days of smartphones and e-readers, I grew for a time, and on many a thick tome, quite fat. It was a diet that I could maintain while a schoolboy, while a student, while a young man, but one that tragically became impossible to sustain once I’d been distracted into the wicked world of work where no consideration whatsoever was given to my limitations, as a worm, or to my wormlike needs. And almost no time at all was allowed, or left over, at the end of each agitated, exhausting day, for reading, or at least, not for reading as an expansion of the mind, and the imagination, and the soul. Since then, I’ve grown thin, terribly thin. And whereas once upon a time I had devoured a book a day, it’s now a major achievement for me to finish reading one book in even a whole, long year. In short, I am dying …

And the glory days of regular reading, when my reading seemed almost to fatten me up at times to something of the status of the young poet, and aspiring writer, comfortably sorrowful on his reading couch, are now long, long gone.

Indeed, I reflect often to myself, if a little bitterly, that:

“The more we read, and study, and learn, the more we know. The more we know, the more we forget. The more we forget, the less we know. So, why read, why study, why learn?”

And “The less you know, the fewer problems you have … and the better you sleep”, right?

Even so, and like so many fellow worms, I draw comfort, a little comfort from the single, distant, rather doubtful, far-off longing and hope, that one day, perhaps in retirement, I shall reach again the promised land of my library (to me a dukedom), and find time, enjoy time, again, to read.

But will I really reach this Shangri-La before realizing my last defiant act of punctuation, my last and very final full stop, before going again into the earth, there buried six feet under, but a worm among worms?

(Although one should “never judge a book by its cover”.)

Oh dear, oh dear.

To be, or not to be … ?

(A worm).

And yet I remain somehow and absurdly thankful for small mercies.

And so with what fondness, then, do I recall those long hours absorbed in books …

And no wonder that books became in some sense my life, or at least my path into life, and understanding …

A book may be a source of great knowledge and wisdom.

And all that is good in me is thanks to books.

Books, and their writers, were my travelling companions, and some became my dearest friends …

And on this long journey I have been blessed with many extraordinary and wonderful companions, and friends, so many, so very many, indeed, and each and every one of them of such unique quality, that it seems beggarly to try to name but one or two …

They have all been my teachers, my masters; and I hold them all dear.

At most, I could perhaps confess quietly to an especial fondness for those writers and thinkers most sympathetic to worms like me, to lost souls, bedraggled and pathetic; I’m thinking, for example, of Franz Kafka, Robert Walser, Hermann Hesse, Fernando Pessoa, Bohumil Hrabal, Samuel Beckett and, a man I consider to be in a category all his own, my most cherished master, at once father, and friend, John Berger.

And if I were to name just one book of special importance to me from my younger reading days – and how could I? – it would perhaps be Hesse’s story of Knulp, the poet-vagabond, the gypsy-scholar, the wandering minstrel-mystic, loving and being loved but never settling, never belonging, and ever the restless, solitary soul, simply searching, searching, searching …

(And perhaps this has been my own problem, too, and all along. Instead of being so fixated on the act of searching, I should simply have found some “thing”, “my thing”, and done something with it, my dear God!)

Yes, indeed.

Lectio Divina …

Readings of the world …

(With death at all times before your eyes).

And in case the moment has now come, not entirely unwelcome, to drop dead, allow me then the thought of just one last sentence to this my pretty speech, to be used as epitaph, and written upon a stone beneath which I’ll find my most profound stillness, solitude, and silence:

“Here lies a bookworm, crushed into silence by a great weight of words, a closed book. May he rest in peace.”

© Bede Nix, 2017. All rights reserved.

LOVE IS BLIND

Love is blind, they say.
And this indeed was the first and most important lesson that love taught me.
I was just sixteen years old.
Young, naïve, innocent.
And in love.
In love with a girl from the local all girls’ school, up the road from the all boys’ school that I attended at that time.
We had met at the “Christmas Ball”, had danced, and laughed, had laughed, and danced, and kissed.
And now, several intensive weeks of negotiations later, we were “official”, “an item”, and we would meet again for a tryst, an assignation, in the local park.
A mild spring day.
I arrived early, she a little late.
I waited, and waited.
Then suddenly, there she was!
(‘What beauty’, I thought!)
(For of this I had convinced myself).
And she was walking towards me, she was walking towards me … towards ME!
And this, then, was surely it … IT WAS LOVE!
But, as she walked towards me, her focus seemed to be on some other, more distant love.
(Or distant spot, at any rate, her eyes squinting awkwardly, awkward, like her posture, as she walked, somewhat crookedly, in the full and magnificent beauty of that midday sun.)
And it was then that I knew, and understood …
You see, she walked right past me.
And I stood there, unnoticed, unloved, stood up, and dumbstruck.
For love was blind.
Or she was, at any rate – without her contact lenses, or glasses.
For on this fateful day–perhaps from vanity–she wore neither contact lenses, nor glasses, and was so terribly short-sighted from squandering her tender young life, and beauty, on book learning, that she walked right past me, as if I didn’t even exist.
And this, then, was love.
And love was blind.

© Bede Nix, 2017. All rights reserved.

SONGS OF THE SILK ROAD

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”.
These words of St Augustine remind me of a popular Chinese expression, that runs: “Read 10,000 books, travel 10,000 miles”.
In Russia it used to be said that, “A man in his lifetime should do three things: plant a tree, build a house, raise a son”.
I am not sure that I have done any of these things; arguably I have done the last of the three, although I am not confident even of that. And even if one accepts that I have indeed raised a family, and specifically a son … well, maybe; but, can I say that I have been a good father?
Possibly I have been too busy trying (and mostly failing) to work through my ever growing list of books to read, and music to discover, and hear, and other cultures with which to familiarize myself, and explore.
But, you know, the more languages and cultures with which I try to become a little bit familiar, the more confused, incoherent, and even idiotic a person I seem to be; the terrible irony of it!
And it is certainly fair to say that the longer I study, for example, Russian, as for the moment I do, then the less of the Russian language and “language culture” I feel as if really, and truly, I understand.
True, there is a tendency when learning languages to focus above all on aspects of grammar, for these at least can be “taught”. But in this way there is a real risk also of losing the wood for the trees. One becomes short-sighted, like a man who spends too much time in his library, reading, reading, reading, but knows next to nothing of real life.
And certainly I dream often, like many a poor poet, of a rather romantic version of what, outside my book-lined room, I might wish that “real life” to be, and right now, in my daydream of today, it’s a reality that sees me sitting by a campfire, listening to the tales and music of my companions, accompanied by here a succulent morsel of flesh, here a sip of wine, here a friend, and here a lover, as the sound of the most beautiful human music resonates around me, its sound lifting up and out across the great echoing chamber of the night sky, that night sky whose many sparkling eyes gaze down on us, myself, and my friends, in our feast, and celebration, and that do so, perhaps, with no less joy, and wonder, than is revealed in the sparkle of our own star struck eyes, opened wide, in astonishment, and delight.
True, we are taught at school (or should be) that to learn a new language is to discover a whole new world. Or, as has been my case while learning Russian, it is to discover many new worlds. And I would challenge you to prove for yourself the truth of this teaching.
I would like to share a little of my immense excitement at these privileged glimpses into other worlds that I have enjoyed thanks to my study of Russian.
What do I mean?
Well, perhaps it goes without saying that I am thinking more about the Russian Federation itself than I have ever done before.
But the Russian Federation is so huge, so vast, and seemingly so wild, that frankly it scares me a bit. It’s like a bear! And in the media representations (and no doubt sometimes distortions) of the West, so much of what we see and hear about Russia can appear ambiguous, whether it be at the level of international politics, or simply at street level, with assassinations, bike and mafia gangs, bullies and bandits. The Wild East!
Or is it that I’m a little eccentric, and prefer to discover a whole new, “VAST” region of the world, as it were, from its extremities, its edges, before travelling inwards, circling inwards, turning deeply inwards, such that my thoughts, “booked out” at last, and with a brain exhausted from too much reading, turn to the southern borders of the Russian speaking world, and to dreams of Central Asia.
It’s a loose manner of speaking, not to be taken too seriously. But you understand.
In any case, since beginning my study of Russian, I have been astonished, utterly astonished, to hear people I know, many of whom are now dear to me, saying to me with conviction, as if trying still to convince me, that yes, and yes, and yes, you’re my friend, we’re friends, and so you do indeed, I do indeed, have friends, now, not only in Moscow, and St Petersburg, in Minsk, and in Kiev, and in Odessa, but also in Astana, and Almaty, and even in Bishkek, Tashkent, Dushanbe, Ashgabat, and Baku, and that yes, and yes, and yes indeed, of course I must come to visit – and the sooner, the better!
Unimaginable!
Unbelievable!
And simply extraordinary, and marvellous, and wonderful!
And on my first such adventure, a few years back, I visited Kazakhstan.
In many Turkic languages, “Kazakh” is a word whose meaning and resonance evokes thoughts of the “free and independent man”, a traveller, an adventurer, a wanderer, a vagabond, and perhaps also a poet.
(Poor poet!)
And since that first trip I have often been armchair travelling along stretches of the old Silk Road, and asking myself if I shall at last find some liberation from the library of the mind in the empty, hypnotic beauty of the Steppe, and beneath the vast skies of Central Asia.
For it was there, in Almaty, city of apple orchards and seduction, that I first heard, with heart and soul, the sound of galloping horses, the mysterious and bewitching music of the magical Kobyz, the warming and spirited melodies of the Dombra, and the trance-inducing throat-songs of the shamans, as they lifted their eyes and the sounds of their voices up to the great Tengri, God of the Sky.
And, since first opening my ears, my hearing, in the land of the Kazakhs, to that new world of sound–new world of sound, that is, to me–I have carried those same ears all over Central Asia, listening at times to the timeless tales recited in Kyrgyz songs from the epic “Manas”, at times to Sufi, Turkmen songs, so deeply inspired, and at times to the great Tajik musicians in the Pamir mountains, and …
Well, ours is a world of music, and song.
And with a willingness to listen comes so much to hear.
(So come, let’s sound our way, together, spirit, and soul, and sound our way, together, across the steppe, drawing the horizon in the breeze of our direction, and walking, together, along the river, and around the lake, and through the waterfall, and into the forest, and over the hills, and on to the distant mountains, crossing landscapes, and histories, above which, above all, the sky, that sky, that seems, somehow, breathing, in its daytime light, and starry night, to expand a human heart, into … space … into vastness … of … empty … space … emptiness … and space … as nothing, but sounding, nothing, but sounding, and sounding, echo, and the ecstasy, of echo … that vastness … space … sounding, resounding, in fullness, in emptiness, the breath, and the heart, emptying out, filling up, and becoming, as if, becoming, as if, as if becoming, for a moment, like a sky, and an ocean, a vast sky, a vast ocean, blue sky, blue ocean, and emotion of bliss, vibration, voice, in sounding music, in song.)
(Let’s listen to our hearts beat now).
(Feel the pulse).
(Sound the breath).
(Inhalation. Exhalation.)
(Letting it all in. And letting it all out, letting it all go.)
(Finding the voice).
(Blue throat).
(And sounding so).
(And sounding so).
(And sounding so).

© Bede Nix, 15 June 2017. All rights reserved.

ALMATY

1.
Almaty is Kazakhstan’s largest city, and its former, historic, and cultural capital. It is Kazakhstan’s major financial centre and also boasts the country’s largest airport.
The city is located in the foothills of the Trans-Mi Alatu (or Zailiyskiy Alatau) in the extreme south-east.
The population of the city is about 2 million.
Almaty remains the largest, most developed, and most ethnically and culturally diverse city in Kazakhstan.
The city has also a significant population of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians.
Almaty has a relatively mild climate with warm summers and moderately cold winters.
Since the city is situated in a tectonically active area, there is an endemic risk of earthquakes; thankfully, most do not cause significant damage.
Almaty may derive its name from the Kazakh word for “apple” (“alma”), and the city, at least until recent times, was famed as “the city full of apples”.
“Alma” is also “apple” in other Turkic languages (as well as in Hungarian and Mongolian); and “Ata” in Turkic languages means “forefather”. For this reason, Almaty is believed by many to be the apple’s ancestral home and, as such, the sight of the Garden of Eden.
The city has a spectacular beauty, whether or not it was the Garden of Eden.
And the city’s mountain backdrop is certainly a dramatic and impressive sight.

2.
I write this sketch to serve as a verbal “snapshot”, or holiday photo, a recollection, a reminder, words scribbled on a postcard, a small souvenir.
I visited Almaty for the first time in 2015, in the company of a dear Kazakh friend and her youngest brother and sister, and various of her family and friends, and my own family, my wife and son.
And we were in Almaty for barely a week.
Nevertheless, I knew that I would feel at home in Almaty when, within a few minutes of arrival in the city, our taxi passed large statues of two old, dear friends: Krokodil Gena and Cheburashka!
Of course, I cannot claim to know the city well.
(But by thinking about Almaty again now, I hope to get to know the city a little better).
On my personalized map of the city there are for the moment perhaps four or five places or areas to where I can close my eyes and travel with ease.
And in my mind’s eye, I see these places very clearly and vividly and, from time to time, I haunt them in my imagination, walking there again.

3.
The first place on my imaginary itinerary is the Green Market, with its rich colours and smells, sights and sounds, fruit and vegetables, fish and meat, breads and pastries, drapes and furnishings, clothes and carpets, almost anything and everything, in fact, such that whatever it is you are looking for, you will probably find it there.
And as the imagination recognizes no limits but its own, and so simply because we can, let’s at once take a huge giant’s leap up from Green Market to Green Hill, with its marvellous views across the city and beyond; a place where the stunning photo opportunity competes only with the fun of all the brightly lit restaurants and amusement rides.
Far more to my liking, however, and certainly more to the liking of my son, were the many amusements of the Central Park, near the zoo, and situated just off Gogol street not far from the flat we had rented for the week. And I took it as a sign of just how at home and how completely relaxed my son felt in Almaty, as in Kazakhstan in general, that he wanted on this occasion to try out for the first time many of the larger and more adventurous fairground rides. He perhaps discovered there, or perhaps simply recognized, a taste for adventure and the extent of his courage. And he enjoyed himself immensely.
On another of our days, feeling in need of some relaxation after so much amusement, we walked across the “28 Park” (a park named after the 28 Almaty soldiers who died, along with so many “Panfilov Heros”, while defending Moscow from the Nazis), admiring on our way the Zenkov Cathedral, and booked ourselves a massage and private sauna in the “Arasan Spa”, or hot baths; sheer bliss!
And this was the same sense of deep relaxation, and taste of bliss, that I explored almost every day during our stay when I took classes in Kazakh-style “Khoomei”, a style of throat singing in low, deep, gravelly voice. Our classes were just along the street from where we were staying, at the Kazakh Museum of Folk Musical Instruments, an absolutely marvellous, magical museum, and for me a kind of “home from home”. And my teacher there, my master, my shamanic guide, was the wonderful Abzal Arykbayev.
This “voice work” was intensely stimulating not only to voice, but also to the entire body, and to the mind, too.
In the evenings, sitting on the balcony with my wife and our Kazakh friend, it was no wonder that we found ourselves dreaming of the wild beauty of the steppe with a longing to taste freedom within the vast, flowing expanse of Kazakh sky, and to allow our imaginations to take flight, as eagles … soaring across the skies … to the Big Almaty Lake, to Alpingrad, to Charyn, to the Assy Plateau, to the Altyn-Emel Park, to the Kolsai Lakes, and then farther, and farther still, away, and far away, and far away, the horizon, beyond …
(In Kazakhstan, it can be enough simply to lose one’s eyes in the heavens to gain some insight into “Tengri”).

4.
This for the moment is the extent of “my” fondly recalled city of Almaty, and the Almaty region.
Even so, it’s already a treasure of happy memory.
And, as such, it is indeed a kind of garden of Eden.
(And may I return there again, and soon, and not only in my imagination, but also in person.)

© Bede Nix, September 2015. All rights reserved.

NAME CALLING

Tell me, little one: from deep within that echoing chamber of the body, Mother Earth, do you already hear the harmony of the heavens? And what music do you hear, to what music do you listen, that makes you wriggle about, so much, in the stillness of the night, reaching out, stretching out, with your hands, and kicking, with your feet?

Ah, I see: you are dancing. And with this dance you think to move the world, is that it?

Restless, it’s as if you must always be moving, twitching your fingers and feet to the powerful rhythms pulsating within. And that’s why you are here in the first place, isn’t it? That’s why you’ve come now. You’re on the move, on the way: and it’s your way, pilgrim soul.

Forgive me, your little voice remains for the moment so faint, so quiet, as if coming from somewhere far away: could you repeat that, please?

Ah, I see: and yes, of course I can understand you. You feel lonely when your mother stops moving, like someone abandoned, floating alone; and, from the depths of that solitude, your little world, uniquely familiar, seems suddenly daunting, and so big, so vast, so empty, like the sky. And you feel anxious, insecure: you are worried. And that’s understandable, that’s normal. And so, in this darkness, you feel your way, staring, straining, to make out some shape, or form, to see a familiar face, perhaps, like your own, as if looking, the inner eye, as in a mirror, soul’s mirror, your mother, own. And yet really what you perceive, perhaps–and all you have for company–are sensations, impulses, and infant thoughts, floating in space, like stars, a vast constellation of brightly shining stars, glittering, the night sky, like diamonds in the mind. And alone, do you ask: am I myself then a star?

And–bright spark that you are!–inspiration comes, a thought strikes and, once more excited, you give her a good dig in the ribs. That should wake her up. Mother!

And I say to you:

Relax, my child, be calm. You are not alone. Your mother is all around you, embracing you. And I am here too. And, as I sit here beside you, beside your mother, my hands gently resting on your mother’s tummy, I hold your little head, almost, in the palm of my right hand, your little feet, almost, in the palm of my left hand. And I call out to you, saying: you are not alone. Your mother is all around you, embracing you. And I am here too. Be calm, my little one, be confident. We are with you.

Yet can you hear us, let alone understand?

And how should we call you, for that matter?

To what call will you respond?

And what name, recognize?

And, until born, on the basis of what criteria must we choose your name?

Sound? Meaning? Fashion? Geography? Culture? Whim?

What name would you yourself choose, I wonder?

And really, to name a child feels like such a responsibility. What if we were to choose a name you don’t like? Something completely inappropriate, and entirely wrong? Or is it inevitable that a child grows up to dislike his or her given name? And what’s wrong with that? Does it really matter?

In any case, no name I have seen, or heard, and mulled over in my mind, sounding it first this way, then that, holding it in my thoughts, has seemed to me sufficient, so far, to express not only our impatience–that of your mother and I–to meet you, and to hear the sound of your voice, and to get to know you, little by little; nor our immense happiness at the thought of your arrival; nor our hopes and dreams for you; nor our confidence and trust in you; nor the joy we wish for you; nor all the love we have for you.

What’s to be done?

Perhaps I should reframe the question, asking: to what call, sounded out in the music of your mother and I, in blinking eyed bliss, have you already responded, in fact, in coming to us now, as if from nowhere, a gift, and a blessing?

All right, I agree: we need to relax, take it easy. All good things come to those who wait, or so they say.

Take you, for example. You are coming to us, very soon: you are on your way. And your name, too, sooner or later, sooner, or later, will come to us. And we shall recognize it when we hear it because it will feel right, sound true. And that name at that time–this name, this time–will be the right name to give to you.

And if, later in life, you are drawn to some other name that, to your mind, conveys better, more accurately, more authentically, the person you are, or wish to be, and if then you decide to change your given name–well, that’s fine, too; it’s absolutely okay. You are the one who responds to this or that name, or not. It’s your name, after all. And you can own it, if you will. And you certainly deserve to feel comfortable with it.

And think also of this. At the very beginning of life, a twinkle in my eye, a racing in your mother’s swollen heart, a deep, contented breath, you were, in any case, but an impulse to love. And look at you now: look how you’ve grown! And this talent for growth–and talent, too, for inspiring love–will see you successfully, I’m sure, through a long and happy life. Let’s see.

And once you’ve outgrown a childhood, what a trivial little detail to outgrow a name.

One thing is certain: in the course of your journey you will come occasionally to realize that you are no longer who you thought you were, so that even your name may seem suddenly too small for you. And that’s fine, too. That’s great, indeed. Be relaxed, be calm, be creative, be free. Flow with your change.

And know too that in these, the first months, the first few months, of your life, not all, surely not all, but many, so many, many names, so many names have already, at some point, or another, been loaned to you, tried out on you, called out to you, as if, at the end, you were some kind of soon to be every man, or every woman, or would be, perhaps, one day: open to all, all embracing, universal.

(Forgive me if I go too far, for not only as a parent, or as a soon to be parent, but as a human being, a simple, human, being, one hopes, one wishes, one dreams; and one gets so carried away; and, with good fortune, one even gets carried far, far, far away; for this is the journey, the adventure, of life; for this is life.)

And when all is said and done, perhaps what we call you–how we name you–is not necessarily of such importance, in and of itself, in the end; but that we do call you, as we call out to you now, and always shall do; that, yes, is important. And that call, and the rush of our racing blood, the rhythm of our hearts, the sound of our voices, all our hopes, dreams, and desires–conscious, and unconscious–that call, at least, you shall hear, and know, and recognize, and understand.

Please lend me then your ear, my dear child; your inner ear.

And know that the voice you heard earlier, the voice you hear so often, in fact, resonating all around you, so extraordinarily powerfully, is the voice of your mother, as you yourself well know, and, know so well, and so much better, know so much better, as you yourself, as you yourself know so much better than anyone, the voice, your mother.

And the voice that you hear now, somewhat deeper, calling out to you again, and again, saying “Come to me, my child”, is me, your father.

And together we love you.

© Bede Nix, 2008. All rights reserved.

COMMUNION

Whenever you need to, and whenever you can, try to keep your hands, and your heart, gently open, as if in prayer. And with your hands, and your heart, gently open, as if in prayer, may you never want for the food that will nourish you, the water that will quench your thirst, and the love, from open hands, and open hearts, that will hold you always infinitely dear.

© Bede Nix, Sunday, 8 April 2018. All rights reserved.

MAY YOUR EVERY STEP, AS IF, IN PRAYER

May your every step, may your every breath, may your every thought, this beating heart, be peace.
May your every step, may your every breath, may your every thought, this beating heart, be peace.
May your every step, may your every breath, may your every thought, this beating heart, be peace.

May your every step, may your every breath, may your every thought, this beating heart, be peace.
May your every step, may your every breath, may your every thought, this beating heart, be peace.
May your every step, may your every breath, may your every thought, this beating heart, be peace.

May your every step, may your every breath, may your every thought, this beating heart, be love, be peace.
May your every step, may your every breath, may your every thought, this beating heart, be love, be peace.
May your every step, may your every breath, may your every thought, this beating heart, be love, be peace.

May your every step, may your every breath, may your every thought, this beating heart, be peace.
May your every step, may your every breath, may your every thought, this loving heart, be peace.
May your every step, may your every breath, may your every thought, this peaceful heart, be love.

May your every step, may your every breath, may your every thought, this beating heart, be peace.
May your every step, may your every breath, may your every thought, this beating heart, be peace.
May your every step, may your every breath, may your every thought, this beating heart, be peace.

As if, in prayer.

© Bede Nix, 14 April 2018. All rights reserved.

GOING WITH THE FLOW

We can relax now, I think; relax, release, let go, go with the flow, open up, and share, as if simply riding, surfing, upon the wave of appearance.
And that’s good, for when we don’t relax, release, let go, go with the flow, open up, and share, as if simply riding, surfing, upon the wave of appearance, this our source of inspiration, this our stream of consciousness, this great flow of creative thought, and rich emotion, and vital energy, in mind, in heart, well, in heart, in mind, all our vital energy, all our rich emotion, all our creative thought, our consciousness, our inspiration, this whole expression of this, our appearance, our appearance of being, our being, as flow, as stream, as source, will simply fail to fulfil the fullness of its potential, its creativity and inspiration, its fullest and most beautiful expression, and then that appearance, that appearance of being, that being, flow, stream, source, energy, not shared, but shut away, shut off, shut down, closed up, locked in, held back, taut, in tension, tight, slows down, grows thick, as if coagulating, and becomes then painful, so painful, and diseased, and draws upon and drains us of energy, so much energy, and our potential, our creativity, our inspiration, our expression, all blocked, and all the energy of movement, in emotion, and the source, the stream, the flow, as if frozen, and the spirit, broken, and dying, but a shadow of both its future could have been and its former self.
So it’s good now that we can relax, release, let go, go with the flow, open up, and share, as if simply riding, surfing, upon the wave of appearance.
And it’s good that we can breathe freely, and fully, in the light, and be illuminated.
And it’s good that we can relax now, I think; that’s really good.
Now go.

© Bede Nix, Monday, 16 April 2018. All rights reserved.

ALL YOURS

You, and me; mine, and yours.
What is you, is not me; what is mine, is not yours.
What is yours, is not mine; what is me, is not you.
What then is you, if not me? And what then is mine, if not yours?
What then is yours, if not mine? What then is me, if not you?
What, in other words, is mine, and what is yours?
What is yours, and what is mine?
What’s mine, what’s yours?
What’s yours, what’s mine?
Mine, yours.
Yours, mine.
What?
What.
What.
What?
That, then, one supposes.
Does one?
That, that.
That is.
What?
What.
What.
What?
What that, then?
And who, you?
And that, am I?
Am I?
That.
Who?
And who, if not you?
And who you, if not me?
And who she, if not he?
And who he, if not she?
And if not me, then, not you.
And if not you, then, not me.
Not me, not you; not you, not me.
And if not me, not you; and if not you, not me.
Not me, not you; not you, not me.
And if not me, not mine; and if not you, not yours.
Not me, not mine; not you, not yours.
And if not yours, and not mine; and not me, and not you.
Then who?
And whose?
Who knows?
And if not me, not you; or if not you, not me.
And if not yours, not mine; and if not mine, not yours.
Not mine, not yours; not you, not me.
You. Me. Me. You.
Me, mine; you, yours.
Me, you; yours, mine.
Mine.
Mine.
Mine.
My love.
All yours.

© Bede Nix, Monday, 16 April 2018. All rights reserved.

CRANE DANCE

Snow falling gently quietens the night’s mind, even as one’s night time body, frozen brittle as frosted bamboo, stands transfixed, eyes staring up, squinting, in disbelief. / There is subtle movement, even so; a pulse, a twitch, a blink. / The quietness clears a space for an anxiety of thought, as yet unsounded, as if perhaps the thought itself, or else the mind, or perhaps the instrument, the body’s flute, were as yet too immature, and inflexible, and unbending, to free itself of such a density of thought; the instrument, in short, unplayed, perhaps unplayable. / And the silence then not so much that of the unsaid, as that of the unexpressed because inexpressible. / And the lonely breath at a loss, that’s clear; there’s something lacking, as if something of the divine were absent, missing; and missing, some element. / Or perhaps what’s missing is only the heat of a fire, the glow of a hearth, a roof, a home, and some warmth of human company, some shared humanity. / Yet, shivering, alone, in this cold night, one recalls, even so, a distant sound, of bamboo, flute, of shakuhachi, and float up to the stars upon that sound, as one adrift, upon a sea, upon a sea, of tranquility; and an end to, perhaps a freedom, from longing. / My mind turns. / And I see then a pair of cranes, coupled, in dance. / I watch them for a while; admiring, yes, but also troubled by them, and by my lack of understanding; my tragic human argument with nature; peering as if through a glass, darkly; and staring out, feeling numb, somewhat dumb. / And then I turn away my thoughts, at last, walk on. / And these thoughts are little more than nothing, in any case. / I trace them in lines across a page, like shallow footprints into melting memory. / Dance soon over. / Dance eternal. / Love does not go on. / Love goes on. / Only time, will tell. / How to tell. / Only time, again, alone. / Be still. / My heart.

© Bede Nix, 14 February 2018. All rights reserved.

MY RUSSIAN WINTER

MY RUSSIAN WINTER
(Don’t Worry, Be Happy)

When I can, I like to wake early in the morning.
It’s my habit at this time to sit on a floor cushion at a low, Japanese-style table. I sip on warm tea and trace my thoughts as they pass in time, floating as upon a dream, unanchored, and perhaps free. I try to keep my back straight and strong. I try to be alert to the movement and the quality of my breath. And, like a musician, I listen for rhythm and harmony. Mostly I am silent, simply listening. But then sometimes, at first almost without realizing it, I begin softly to hum to myself. And sometimes I also sing, with a full, strong voice. Whose is this voice? From where does it come? Who is this crazy man who sings sometimes love songs, teary-eyed, to the rising, new-day sun?
Today I barely recognize the man as me. At least, it is not the me of this current period in my life; it is not the me of today; it is not the man of this morning (far from it). The man of this morning is barely a man at all. Back no longer straight, spine no longer strong, breath no longer deep, he slumps exhausted across his table, feeling as pale and as empty and as devoid of meaning as the blank white page on which his weary head drops down to rest, and upon which he leaves no positive impression but only the shallow indentation of a deep depression. Besides being exhausted, this man is broken-hearted. And in his clenched fingers he clutches a pencil like a dagger, cutting from his thoughts only cruel and hurtful words. And, in this state, he feels completely overwhelmed by life; it is as if life has in some sense defeated him. And like a beggar who kicks his dog in rage, he curses himself for all his many failures and failings, but to no good purpose. And even the words he does find seem tired, predictable, clichéd. Why not simply erase them from the page and cut out all these useless, ugly stupidities, and start all over again, perhaps from scratch.
Suddenly, a sharp noise … my heart skips a beat … I hear a cry from the street … but I’m mistaken; it’s just the sound of despair ricocheting around the mind in a wild scattering of thoughts. What’s to be done? What to do?
(Do what you will, but trust, be calm, have confidence; sooner or later, that earlier lightness of spirit will again be yours, and all will be well).
I think again and again to the poem of Mayakovsky, “The Backbone Flute”.
For all of you,
Whom I’ve admired or still am admiring,
Hidden like icons in the cave of the soul,
Like a goblet of wine at a festive gathering,
I shall raise my heavy, verse-brimming skull.
More and more often, I’m wondering –
Why shouldn’t I place
The period of a bullet at the end of my stanza?
Today,
Just in case,
I am giving my final, farewell concert.

Memory!
Gather into the brain’s auditorium
The bottomless lines of those who are dear to me.
From eye to eye, pour mirth into all of them.
Light up the night with the by-gone festivity.
From body to body, pour the joyous mood.
Let no man forget this night.
Listen to me, I will play the flute
On my backbone tonight.

I am trying to learn Russian.

And I think now, too, to the several times repeated question of my Russian language teacher, Natasha: ‘Are you a pessimistic or an optimistic person?’ A curious question; my instinct is to challenge it, but it’s clear that to do so is tantamount to falling into a psychological trap; it reveals at the outset what a critical, negative person you are (I am). But, how should we understand this curious contemporary phenomena that posits that we must find everything to be good, if not great, if not wonderful? What is it all about, this desperate frenzy of positivism? Is it a kind of brainwashing? 1984? Control of the masses? Wake each morning, please, and say to yourself, “Ours is the best of all possible worlds”. And, “I am so happy today”. And, “Hoorah! Hoorah!” And, when in the street or at work you are asked, “How are you?” You answer: “Excellent, thank you; everything is great; fantastic!” (And you must mean it, too).
Or should Natasha’s question not more easily be understood in terms of the Russian speaker’s questioning of and conversation with their own melancholy soul?
Happily, I often feel very genuinely joyful. But, although I am often joyful, perhaps I have been so less often in the past few years, and most especially during this last long winter. And so what? If at times I know sadness, unhappiness, frustration, despair, does this mean that I am in some way at fault? Am I malfunctioning? Do I need to be mended? Must I seek out help? First a doctor and then a pharmacist?
I am as yet still looking forward to seeing the classic [1962] filmed version of Sholokhov’s “And Quiet Flows the Don”, but I read the book when I was perhaps 18 or 19 years old. I enjoyed it a lot.
The book’s title, “And Quiet Flows the Don”, makes me dream, for all the painful irony of such a dream, of a quietness that I feel I have lost, a quietness that I associate in my memory, no doubt quite falsely, with a lost childhood hope and optimism. And it is also a title that, on a purely personal note, I cannot help but associate with my dear “Uncle Don”, who is a wonderful, warm, kind, and gentle, man who, now in his 80s, finds himself, quite out of character, sometimes raging at old age, that old age that seems to be robbing him, in tiny increments, of the sharpness of his once brilliant mind, and causing him gradually to grow ever more physically tired, and weak, and mentally dense, light dimmed, and forgetful, increasingly forgetful, of so much precious thought.
My dear, dear Uncle Don: he was the man who first got me dreaming of Russia when I stayed with him as a young boy; perhaps I was only 8 or 9, or perhaps 10 or 11 years of age. I no longer remember exactly how old I was at the time. No matter. At his suggestion, we sat together and watched through the entirety of David Lean’s epic film adaptation of Pasternak’s “Dr Zhivago”. Was it this film that stirred in me the dream to be one day a poet? Or did I somehow sense in this film some strange parallels to life as it would one day be, like looking into a magic ball foretelling elements of my future?
“Nobody loves poetry like a Russian”, is a line that remains still now in my heart’s memory.
From Pasternak, let’s turn our thoughts now to Tolstoy; Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”, and specifically the image of the railway worker falling exhausted before the oncoming train, a prefiguring of Anna Karenina’s own death (like the rail tracks themselves, must we always draw parallels?). And I repeat: falling exhausted before the oncoming train; falling exhausted before the oncoming train; falling exhausted before the oncoming train.
Sometimes the rhythm of our repeated thoughts is mesmerizing, and we find ourselves locked in a train of thought that speeds relentlessly on, as if out of all control.
And is it then fate?
May one be fated?
May life be fatal?
I “work” in one city, alone, and with my wife and children, “live”, at least theoretically, in another city, these two cities separated for me, each week, by a three‑hour train journey and an ocean of heartache. How many are we in the world today who choose or feel no choice but to live in this way?
And I ask myself: how many times in a lifetime can one find oneself, as in a moment of eternal recurrence, yet again at a train platform, broken-spirited, exhausted by life, waiting always for the last train to depart? For how long can a soul endure such a life before it withers and dies?
My father himself was for some years a railway worker, sweeping the platform for hours on end with a stiff brush.
Why so many hours spent waiting on the platform? Waiting, thinking, thinking, waiting. For what? And what if you already missed your train? Is it already too late?
A train of thought.
(A train of thought, travelling from here to there, then back again, and then again, from here to there, there to here, always to and fro.)
My thoughts return to Pasternak.
I have heard that a number of the Pasternak family now live in Oxford, the city of my birth. I wonder if that’s true. And if it is, I might think: “fancy that; what a small world!”
Flicking through my memories of the last few years, I think to the hundreds, the literally hundreds, and hundreds of hours spent locked in a train, criss‑crossing Switzerland (not quite like Pavel Pavlovich Antipov, aka “Strelnikov”, from “Zhivago”, criss-crossing revolutionary Russia, but exhausting, all the same).
And I think, too, to all of my wife’s health problems, which in the summer of 2013 saw her seven times the subject of a surgeon’s knife. I think also to the constant agitation of the workplace, our work culture; indeed, our whole way of “modern life”. And I think, above all, to the death of my father, last November, 19 November 2013, and, barely three months later, early February, 1 February 2014, not at all a surprise, and yet somehow also a huge surprise, or rather a mystery, and at any rate a total shock, to the death of my mother. The Russians say that when one dies, the other soon follows. And the rest of us too, let’s face it; it’s only a question of time.
And sure, there are plenty of times, quite frankly, when I myself feel like I’ve had quite enough of this absurd business of life. Don’t you also feel sometimes this way? I think it’s normal.
And, like Zhivago, as finally he sees his opportunity to leave the brigade of red army communist partisans, whom for two years he has been forced to serve, I long to turn back, to ride away, to turn back the clock.
And what a long, dark winter.
I think of it now as “my Russian winter”.
In Pasternak’s poem, he writes in this way of “February”:
“It’s February. Weeping, take ink.
Find words in a sobbing rush
For February, while black spring
Burns through the rumbling slush.

And take a cab. Ride for a rouble
Through wheel racket and bells’ throbbing
To where the downpour makes more din
Than the sound of ink and sobbing;

Where rooks in thousands, like charred pears
Windfallen from their branching skies,
Drop into puddles and bring down
Desolation into deep eyes.

Thawed patches underneath show black,
The wind is furrowed with cries, and then,
The more suddenly the more surely,
Verses sob from the pen.”

Tolstoy formulates it in this way:
“My question – that which at the age of fifty brought me to the verge of suicide – was the simplest of questions, a question lying in the soul of every person. It was: ‘What will come of what I am doing today or shall do tomorrow? What will come of my life? What is life for?’ Differently expressed, the question is: ‘Why should I live, why hope for anything, or do anything?’ It can also be expressed thus: ‘Does my life have any meaning that death cannot destroy?'”
Of course, this question, from a revolutionary perspective, may be purely individualistic, sentimental, and personal: it has little or no historical value. And to some extent I agree. It strikes me as absurd, absurdly human, to be digging into our own pathetic little pockets of anxiety and suffering, mostly over trivial and mortal concerns, when one has friends, for example, who are at that very same moment witnessing their lives being swept up in a grand historical narrative such as that of Russia’s recent “illegal occupation”, “theft”, “annexing”, or “historically justified reclamation” (depending on your standpoint), of the Crimea.
(And quiet flows the Don.)
Indeed, I have a “new friend”, “A”, whose mother lives in Moscow but whose father and half-sisters live in the Crimea. She is a “new friend” in the sense that I have known her for only a very short time. And yet, with what already I understand to be a typical Russian warmth, she feels somehow more like an “old friend”. And she has shared a few of her stories and worries concerning the situation in the Crimea, especially as it concerns her father and his family. For a while (perhaps still now), the Ukrainian government had frozen all assets held in the Crimea. “A”‘s father had literally no access to money. At the same time, local prices for basic goods had risen to match the prices one finds in Moscow. I tried to find some supportive and encouraging words for her, but how could I? I understand nothing of such things! They are beyond the scope of my beggarly imagination. In the end, I shared with her only some music of which I am fond, “Für Alina”, with the thought, if nothing else, either to distract her, or to help her in some way to release the tension of so much anguished emotion. Unsatisfied with my words, I dropped also into a kind of “silent prayer”. But who will ever hear this prayer?
(“Old believers”, I mutter; “or new ones … “).
But even if I’ve no‑one with whom to share this thought, let me say now that I am deeply grateful during this last year to have had the opportunity to begin a study of the Russian language. These Russian studies have at the very least been a helpful distraction from my own individualistic, selfish, sentimental, personal, but nonetheless in a sense also difficult, even desperate, and seemingly futile, search for life’s structure, purpose, meaning. And I have especially “enjoyed” (if that’s the right word) the challenge of replacing this desperate despair with the existential angst of knowing that, in spite of all the creative encouragement and cajoling on the part of my Russian teacher, I have still not submitted a simple student text, in Russian, on the combined themes of “the weather” and “holidays”.
But no wonder! For too much meditation on the meaning of life and death makes it a struggle for me even to write a simple shopping list, let alone to elaborate a fantasy of a wonderful holiday, in fine weather!
And if you ask me – me, an Englishman! – how is the weather (always a delicate subject, for an Englishman), I’ll tell you that, at least where I am, it’s not even weather. Indeed, it’s weather worse even than in England. The sun is not shining, the sky is not cloudless and blue, the trees give no fruit, the flowers are not in blossom, and the birds are not singing. Am I then a depressive type? Sorry to sound again so negative, but still I answer, no, no, no, and not at all. It’s just that I find myself somehow competing with “the Russian soul”, such that my thoughts, plumbing the dark depths, are like a dense fog, the weather in my head nothing but torrential rain and storms, and the mental landscape seemingly worse, even, than that found in the dark, post-apocalyptic vision that is Tarkovsky’s film, “Stalker”. In fact, this is a film that I like to watch from time to time for light relief. I see it as a kind of post-modern summer camp. Watching it has become for me comparable to flicking through the glossy pages of a holiday magazine over a coffee; it’s a dream of better days.
Let me observe, here, that the theme of “holidays” is also not too good right now. Indeed, if I think back through the last ten years, all family holidays, almost without exception, have been spent with my parents. And now my parents have gone off on another, and far longer, “extended” holiday, from which who knows when they will return, if ever, or when, one day all too soon, perhaps, we will ourselves be called to join them.
Although allow me to note here, “in passing”, as it were, that I find myself thinking about my parents more now than ever before. I feel also that they are in some sense “more present” to me now than ever before. And how curious, unexpected, sometimes startling it is. To give but one example: while trying to prepare for my most recent end of term Russian exam, I sat down to watch two one-hour biographical documentary films by Nikita Mikhalkov, the director of the acclaimed and Oscar-winning film, “Burnt by the Sun”. Only subsequently did I come to realize the full significance of my selection: a film called “Father”, and a film called “Mother”. The formula (or is it a prayer?), “A loved one never leaves the heart”, seems more true to my experience now than ever before.
My thoughts returning again to Tolstoy (there is a photo of the old starritz on the table before me, where I write), I ask myself: what purpose is there even to attempt to capture in words these confused and seemingly faithless, godless words, lacking as they do all confidence or courage?
And yet, as all these thoughts bleed out into words upon the page, so much spilled ink, it seems to me that perhaps they do in fact serve some purpose, albeit modest. And perhaps for you, dear reader (supposing you exist, that is – I am writing rather hypothetically), it is rather an awkward or even an embarrassing experience to read these words. You may find yourself feeling impatient or even irritated with me. You may think me a fine fool. (I think you not far wrong). Nevertheless, I feel on my side a little better for the process; just a little. And setting this all down in words is undeniably cheaper and quicker – probably also more effective – than visiting a therapist. And it enables me at last to turn my freed up thoughts to a holiday – and, goodness knows, I need one now more than ever.
So where shall we go?
I ask my son.
His wish is to travel again to Cornwall, in the south of England, to stay with Tim and Valerie on their farm, where we can feed and watch the farm animals, the sheep and goats and horses and donkeys and pigs and cows, play hide and seek, walk across the fields, climb on the rocks, walk on the sand, splash and swim in the sea, ride on a ferry boat, go fishing and, at least once or twice, in the evening, eat fish and chips (with ketchup and mayonnaise, adds my son).
I tell him that I, too, am looking forward to these days (and how much).
(And given that in recent years the Gazprom “new Russians” have been buying up much of England, including properties in Cornwall, perhaps I shall even speak some Russian while I am there).
And now that finally we are onto the subject of holidays, let me note here that, to the surprise of some, I am not so terribly fond of sitting around on a beach, feeling barbecued by an intense summer sun. This is another reason why I like to holiday in England. A Cornish summer can witness some glorious warm days, but there is often also a cooling breeze, and dramatic changes in the weather that add interest and variety, and often a wild sea. The countryside is always so vibrant and alive, the sky is huge, and the long horizon across the sea is restful to tired eyes. I look forward in the late afternoon to drinking tea, from water in a flask, and then to walking with my son along the beach, at the shore as the sun sets across the sea, as once my father did with me.
Thinking about that far horizon, I ask myself again: how to explain death to a child? And, for that matter, how to explain life when you yourself understand of it so little?
For life is not a walk across a field, as Pasternak observed in “Hamlet”.
And nor is it a walk along the beach.
And one long holiday it certainly isn’t, either.
Samuel Beckett writes that, “When you’re in the last ditch, there is nothing left to do but sing”.
And so I begin softly to sing a song, this time in Russian …
“Nature has no bad weather,
Each weather, a grace.
The rain, snow, at any time of year,
These we should gratefully accept.
The echoes of the soul of the weather,
In the heart of loneliness pining,
And insomnia, bitter harvest,
We should gratefully accept,
We should gratefully accept.
The death of desires, the years and misfortunes,
Every day all our baggage,
That you assigned to nature,
We should gratefully accept.
The shifting of the years, sunsets and sunrises,
And love, the last grace,
As well as the date of departure,
These we should gratefully accept,
All these we should gratefully accept.
For Nature has no bad weather,
The course of time cannot be stopped.
The autumn of life, like the autumn of the year.
We need not grieve, but count our blessings.
And we need not grieve, but count our blessings.
We need not grieve, but count our blessings.”

(And when it next rains, as during a summer holiday in England it surely will, at times, may it be for all of us a rain of blessings; a rain of blessings; a rain of blessings).

© Bede Nix, 2014. All rights reserved.

WALKING ON ALONE

Walking on alone.

Walking on alone, once more.

Walking on alone, once more, and asking: …

Is it an immense solitude, and loneliness, and melancholy, the magic mix of ingredients, the alchemy, that may make of a man, or of a woman, a poet, or a suicide?

Is it an immense solitude, and loneliness, and melancholy, the magic mix …

And walking once more, alone …

Walking once more, alone …

Walking once more, alone …

And walking once more, alone, and cutting, cutting through, the chill, in the night, walking alone, once more … I …

Walking once more alone, and cutting through, the chill in the night, cutting through, walking alone, once more … I …

Walking once more alone, in the night, cutting chill, all alone, in the night … I …

(Tiredness)

And, once more alone, in the night, walking on alone, in the night, I weep; I weep, with the rain, in the night, once more alone, a kind of conversation, dull, and familiar, too familiar … oppressive, somehow … like an act … act of … oppression … so deeply comforting, sometimes … yet no, not exactly … oppression … not exactly, a conversation … oppression … and not a conversation, exactly … and nor a dialogue … but at best a kind of listening, perhaps … a kind of listening … echo … listening … to … with … the deaf, the dumb, and the downtrodden … the silenced, the silent … the desolate, and the desperate … and yet somehow comforting, too, too strangely comforting, too, and somehow, in its way. And walking on alone, and asking …

(Is that you?)

(No; it’s only the rustle of the wind, whispering, in the trees; the wind, in the trees; the wind, the trees …).

(A creaking door, a little unhinged).

(Reflection in a window pane, roughly framed).

(Rattled).

(And footsteps of a stranger, gone on).

(Walking on alone).

(A passing shadow).

(Faint sigh).

(So sorry …

I mistook you, for … for someone else, perhaps …

You seemed … so … so … so … and so …

(I don’t know).

But how I hoped … )

(Dear father; dear son).

(Deceitful familiarity … false appearances … and family).

(Dashed hopes).

(Disappointed expectations).

(Empty promises).

(Promises, expectations, hopes, left suspended, left hanging … )

(Hanging, there, and here, left, and right, and here, and there … )

(Words suspended, hanging … kept hanging … )

(And everything tied up, and tangled).

(No good with hanging rope).

(Not even).

(Tied up, in a knot).

(All knotted up).

(All knotted up, somehow, like so much tripe; empty pit, of stomach, of rumbling stomach, forever hungry).

(Stomach in knots).

(Gut feeling).

(Hearing).

(Can’t hear you).

(Hearing).

(Condemned).

(As if condemned).

(Like a man, condemned).

(I know).

(I hear you).

(Walking on alone).

(Walking on).

(Alone).

Walking on alone.

Walking on alone, and asking …

What if I were to step out now, alone?

What if I were to step out?

What if?

(Standing on that bridge, eyes down, down, down, being low, being below, and just got to walk out, can’t take much more, more thinking, if thinking only to cross, to cross that bridge, time’s dreams, and whatever comes now, can go, and whatever comes now, can go, crossing over now, now going, river’s flowing, river’s flowing, but not giving, and not giving up, not giving … )

(Ah).

Walking on alone.

Walking on alone, and asking …

What if I were to step out now, alone?

What if I were to step out?

What if?

And would I fall?

I mean, if I were to step out now, what then?

What then?

And would I fall?

(Of course I’d fall! But then?)

(It’s no bungee jump, I guess; no bouncing back!) (No base jump; no sky suit; no parachute!)

And would it spell the end, or but a new beginning?

A death, or a resurrection?

A full stop?

End of a period of my life.

Or simply: end of my life. Period.

Or … ?

Maybe. Maybe. Just maybe …

(A moment of meditation).

A fuller life.

(In contemplation).

(Insight illuminating the mind, opening up thought, in meditation, to contemplation, and dissolving the self, into a union, with time … into a union … with time … itself … )

(Absent self … and Self … present … )

(And time has no importance; time does not exist!)

(Be present).

(Who can be present?)

(And only present).

(Only).

(You).

(Only … you … )

(And you).

(And you).

(Only … )

And, I ask you …

How would the chill feel then, and the cold, the numbing cold, cutting through my body, falling, cutting, cutting, against my skin … ?

And would the mind be also cold, and numb, falling, failing, falling, failing, and at last, from the cruelties of this mortal coil, cut free?

Just in the nick, the cut, of time …

(The nick, the cut, of time).

(The nick, the cut).

(The nick … )

And would there be time still for thought, and thinking …

(On my deathbed, thinking).

(Time).

(Would there still be time?)

(On my deathbed).

(Thinking).

What?

What?

What?

Of what? Of thinking, of what?

What is it?

Loss, or liberation?

Sadness, or salvation?

(Maybe a doubt … ?)

(Regret?)

Of all that’s come before, life lived …

Or …

Of new life, yet to come?

(And, for your assessment, your evaluation, your examination, please step this way. I’m ready for you now.)

But … just supposing … and …

And, just supposing, that at last, at last, and that at last, I succeeded, and succeeded, and I succeeded, to give myself … that … one … big … final … push …

Who then to catch me?

Who there to break my fall?

(Or will Angels … the Angels … carry me … and carry me … away?)

(And so on silent wingbeats … the soul … departs … flies … flies … flies … from stench of life … to stench of death … away … to dream … of new life … and new life’s … sweetness … and … salvation … eternal … )

(And don’t you hear me?)

(And don’t you see?)

(I’m so down; I’m so down; I’m so down).

(Going under).

(Under).

(Watery depths; so much memory, dark; and dark, dark drowning memories; and so much memory, dark, for drowning).

(Please).

(Please lift me up; please lift me up, someone, please; someone please; please lift me up).

(Someone).

(Anyone).

(Please lift me up).

(Get me out of here!)

But really … but … really …

But what’s … really … the bloody …

… Hell …

The bloody point.

The bloody point …

The bloody …

… Hell …

(Fuck off!)

And … the bloody … point … even … to ask …

Why ask?

I mean, what’s the bloody point … in reading novels, or poetry, or philosophy … ?

What’s the bloody point, to shape the letters in the mind, to read the words, and lines, and … between the lines … ?

(To develop … try to develop … a reading … between the lines … and some … intelligence?)

And why read novels, or poetry, or philosophy … ?

Or anything at all, for that matter?

Why search for meaning?

Why try to read, between the lines?

Why even try, to make sense, why bother, making sense, the whole business, this whole, absurd, business, and why even bother, making sense, of life, this life, no sense, why even bother, why even try, to make sense, why try?

(And is that then the question?)

Why read?

Why ask?

Why try?

I mean: Why? And why? And why?

(And on your deathbed, what then?)

Some pattern …

Some purpose …

Some meaning …

(A meaningful life).

(A purposeful life).

(Some pattern, some structure).

(And perhaps, even, a beginning, a middle, and not just an end).

But …

Why?

What’s the bloody point?

And what do you think?

I ask you: why; and again, why?

Or, do you prefer not … not, no … not, no … to think …

(I wouldn’t blame you).

And I mean …

If it weren’t for this nervous asthma, this nervous, psychological, asthma, and … and this constant … struggle, to breathe … this constant struggle, against suffocation … and … to breathe … and this constant struggle, simply, to breathe … and to keep breathing … to keep breathing in, keep breathing out … only … I can’t breathe … I … cannot … breathe … and then, if it weren’t for this peculiar aversion … a kind of allergy, perhaps … of skin … of something under the skin … and peculiar aversion … strange distaste … taste … distaste … for plastic … and plastic bags, in particular … plastic food … and drinks … and people … and worried, as if I am, at our indifference, at our indifference, to some kind of … general … well … being … health, protection, salvation, future … the planet … and the revenge, the planet … of this, our planet … words … and deeds … … and indeed, some kind of, sort of, sort of, kind of … collective … collective … collective …

(Suicide).

(Mother earth; mother tongue).

(And how we loved you, once, you many daughters, of the earth, this fertile earth, so sweet, salvation, how once we loved you).

(You many daughters, of the earth).

(And sons).

(This fertile earth).

(So sweet).

(Salvation).

For you too are of the earth, don’t forget; you too, are of the earth; you too, the earth.

(Dust to dust).

(Ashes to ashes).

(You too … you too … are … )

(Being)

(In nature).

(Our nature).

(One nature).

(This fertile earth).

(And … is that you?)

(Or only?)

(Yes; and yes again … )

And if … and if I weren’t … and I weren’t … so pathetically … pacifistic … and so vehemently against … and against … bloodbaths … of all kinds … and, for that matter, if I weren’t so hopelessly squeamish, too … at the sight of blood … and really, just the thought … of all that blood … never cleansed from memory … history … feel so weak … it kills me … and, likewise, if I didn’t always gag on pills, or if my oven weren’t electric, like the car, too late, and if once I’d learned to swim, and weren’t so scared of heights … or if I’d got some mates, some friendly face, they’d surely help me out, show me a way … going down, are you? … coming down under … matey? … going down? … and they’d give me a hand, surely … or a push … or pull a trigger … perhaps … mate … my old mate … you’d do that for me, my friend, surely … for me … wouldn’t you? If only … if only to put me … out … the lights … out … of the misery … the darkness … and that way, an end to it … the exit … but … and then … what then? … what happens then? What next? And …

(To have and to hold; ’till death do us part … )

(And … )

(Life … mate … soul … partner … )

(Where are you?)

(Are you)

(And … could that … is that … you …?)

(No).

(No news).

(Good news).

(Fake news).

(Bad news).

(So bad).

(Fake news).

(So bad).

But at least then there’d be–rather than this pathetic, self pitying, same old, same old … and the usual bellyache … well, at least then there’d be … some incontrovertible evidence, incontrovertible evidence … of this … this existential … emptiness … the void … within … and some method, some method, in my madness …

And still that voice, that voice, at the back of the mind, the distant recesses of the mind, that voice, so quiet, yet screaming, yet somehow screaming, small, quiet voice, heard screaming, still screaming, and screaming, screaming out, screaming out, at me, to delete, to hit delete, and to hit delete all, all, all: Delete! Delete! Delete!

And should I then erase these words; or can I, must I, leave them, let them be?

(Bad).

(So bad).

(And such, then, that a startling new word, new sentence, not quite a new chapter, perhaps, but, for sure, a fine … or … at least … a fine … and a fine, finale, of a kind … “the end” … yes, “the end” … THE END … and, with that, a completion, some “closure”, upon the final report … the final, final report, of the dear, kind doctor … dear doctor, too kind … she/he … he/she … (trans … form … adapt … ) … (adapt as necessary) … (transform as necessary) … and so … who? … what? … so … human, so deeply human, so deeply, perfectly human … great of heart … full of compassion … and so … so understanding, too … so perfectly understanding … and sometimes almost too, too perfectly … too perfectly perfect, perhaps … from the low vantage point, that is, of I, a sinner … fallen, lost … and in the darkness, in any case … gone down … gone under … seeing nothing … beholding nothing … and so … Ecce Homo! … and that’s right … so perfect … and almost too, too perfect … perfectly kind … and understanding … and professional … punctual, too … impeccably so … and so polite … (or is that phoney? … no, no … just being professional … just “correct”, that’s all … like a courtesan) … pricey, of course … at least for me, for us … simply too expensive … for me, for us … for who can afford it? … not me … not I … not us … I … I cannot afford it … cannot afford … to go on … I cannot afford it, to go on … and you? … as if any of us could really afford it, to go on, this cost … the cost, this cost, this crazy world … wasted talent … potential … waste of wisdom, insight … words … and so many words … all suspended, hanging … upon the page … the psychiatrist’s page … deeply human … perfectly human … so great of heart … full of compassion … and so … understanding … dear, dear doctor … who understands so very much, it seems to me … so very much … and yet … not … just not … still not … even if … this … and … that’s right, of course … and yes … you’re late … again … and yes, I know … I’m sorry … and yes, you’re absolutely right … of course … and yes, of course I understand … and the rest can wait … the rest can wait … so thank you … thank you … for your time … your time … your time … and I’m sorry … so sorry … for your time … and your time … but your time now is up … time is up … and I’m afraid we’re out of time … your time … my time … my time is up … just in time … just out of time … just in the nick, the cut, of time … the end of time … and yes … yes, I know … my time is up … so sorry …)

(And have I a train to catch, perhaps?)

(A platform?)

(Or is this just the door?)

(Show me the way, the way out; please show me the way; do, do show me; please do).

(It’s marked, “Departures”).

(And if the door won’t open, break through it, break it down; and break down …)

(And, set to leave now, and, setting out, stepping off … )

And, well …

And, well …

Well what?

And, well … all that … to say … that if it weren’t for that, all that, I mean, I’d already … and long … ago … long, long … ago … and long, long, long ago, already … be gone … and gone, good riddance … the end of me … I mean … for, there are … surely … so many ways to die … and yet still … I’m here, and here still I am, and here am I, still, still, and here too, and here, I am … still … but not at all still … still can’t sit still … can’t sit still, stand still … sitting still, standing still … nervous, restless energy … and got to go now, got to get up, got to get out, got to go … go take a walk …

And I’m hurting too!

(You too?)

(Me too).

(We mutter to ourselves, under the shallow breath).

And we’re all so sensitive!

We have also our feelings!

And …

Never again, you hear!

(And, don’t you … ever … )

(Ever again).

But …

And still that that voice, that voice, at the back of the mind, the distant recesses of the mind, that voice, so quiet, yet screaming, yet somehow screaming, small, quiet voice, heard screaming, still screaming, and screaming, screaming out, screaming out, at me, to delete, to hit delete, and to hit delete all, all, all: Delete! Delete! Delete!

And should I then erase these words; or can I, must I, leave them, let them be?

Walking on alone.

Walking on alone, once more.

Walking on alone, once more, and asking: …

Is it an immense solitude, and loneliness, and melancholy, the magic mix of ingredients, the alchemy, that may make of a man, or of a woman, a poet, or a suicide?

Is it an immense solitude, and loneliness, and melancholy, the magic mix …

And walking once more, alone …

Walking once more, alone …

Walking once more, alone …

And, walking once more, alone, and cutting, cutting through, the chill, in the night, walking alone, once more … I …

Walking once more alone, and cutting through, the chill in the night, cutting through, walking alone, once more … I …

Walking once more alone, in the night, cutting chill, all alone, in the night … I …

(Tiredness)

And, once more alone, in the night, walking on alone, in the night, I weep; I weep, with the rain, in the night, once more alone, a kind of conversation, dull, and familiar, too familiar … oppressive, somehow … like an act … act of … oppression … so deeply comforting, sometimes … yet no, not exactly … oppression … not exactly, a conversation … oppression … and not a conversation, exactly … and nor a dialogue … but at best a kind of listening, perhaps … a kind of listening … echo … listening … to … with … the deaf, the dumb, and the downtrodden … the silenced, the silent … the desolate, and the desperate … and yet somehow comforting, too, too strangely comforting, too, and somehow, in its way. And walking on alone, and asking …

(Is that you?)

(No).

And can it really be that … I am unable … I cannot … cannot even … kill myself … cannot even kill myself, and … unable even to kill myself, still, not even … not even, upon the page … and upon the page … in words … in hanging words, cut from the language, my tongue … my tongue … my tongue cut from the language … cut out … without ever … to kill myself, with any success … or style, or grace … Good Grace of God! … and that … I … I cannot … cannot even … cannot … still … but of course, of course …

(But really … I mean, really? Is there really no getting rid of me?)

 

 

I blame the anti depressants … the mood enhancers … the uppers … and the lack of sleep … and the sleeping pills … and then again the downers … but then … but then … but then I would …

I mean, I would; wouldn’t I?

(And there again the same old, same old … the same old, same old … the usual bellyache …)

(Are you there?)

No.

Or yes, rather; still here …

In the mirror, only me.

Pulling out my hair.

(But present, all along … )

(I’m still here for you).

(Not a question of being on time; not a question of being late).

(But present, in time).

(Meditation … Contemplation … )

(Carrying you along, like a babe in arms, or a barque upon the stream …)

(My mother, my father … )

(My son). (My daughter).

(And present, all along … )

(Here I am).

(Still here for you).

(Waiting here for you).

(Present).

(A gift).

For this is the time of your life, my friend; the time of your life!

(Sands of time).

(Upon the sands of time, I walked … )

(Alone).

And …

No.

Just say no.

Just say no to drugs, we were told.

Just say NO!

(No … )

(No, I’ve had enough; stop this, please.)

(Just say NO).

And …

Doctor … ?

Are you still there?

Are you there?

(No … for I’m afraid that your time is up … my thoughts … already … elsewhere …)

(Bye then! See you … )

(And no … no need to be afraid).

(I’m ready).

And I light a short, cheap cigar.

I can smoke a bit, at least … and drink … and smoke a bit, at least, and drink … and drink, a lot … and try to smoke, and drink, a lot … and try to smoke, and drink, and dream, myself, to death …

To sleep, perchance, to dream … and to dream … and to dream …

And to dream of some other life, of something else, of something more, something better, more interesting, more meaningful … besides despair … and all this despair … this slow motion drowning, in sadness, and tears … and lamentation … and words … and all these words, all words … suspended, hanging … in the air … cut from the language, my tongue … cut from the language, my tongue … my tongue, my mother tongue … my mother … my father … tongue … and land … my motherland … father … land … and some small plot of land, at least … a little land, at the last … to call … to call it … (earth, ashes, dust) … my home …

(What a dream).

And these words, that seem to come from … God … knows … where … these inky thoughts, that bring down such dense black skies, heavy, and such desolation … upon … tense, tired eyes … a look of great strain … that screams out … screams out … screams out, in but a look – silently – screaming silently – to someone – who that? … that melancholy, friends, is murder … but … (screaming out) … so what? … so what? … so what? … and … who … what … that?

(And are you now there?)

(No, still not).

(Present).

(Calling out).

(What a loser!)

And yes … and yes, I know … I know … the same old, same old … … … same old, same old …

No other option then, for now, but to keep on walking … quiet, keep quiet … keep on quietly walking, for now, no other option, through the night, the dark night … struggling to see … and to see what happens next … and why?

And I ask myself:

(This life, as if suspended … The Great Work … as if, for a moment, eternal moment, suspended … and I … who am I? … the Hanged Man … perhaps … betrayer … and betrayed … suspended … between … the barely human … but present … and the … absent … my God! … and the Fully Divine, entranced … )

(Or the other way around?)

(Perhaps).

(Are you here?)

(Are you there?)

(We seek him here, we seek him there; we seek him here and everywhere!)

(Presence. Absence.)

(… NO …)

(Why? Why not?)

(Someone).

(No one).

(Breathing).

(Breathing on).

(Walking on).

(Eternal love).

(All one).

(Alone).

© Bede Nix, 30 March 2017. All rights reserved.

SO TO SPEAK

It’s most certainly not an habitual attitude, for me, or in any way typical, but still I confess that, sometimes, when tired, tense, and bad-tempered, I would wish everyone to go straight to heaven, so to speak, so that I myself could go alone to some quiet corner in hell – if such exists – and enjoy there some little peace, perhaps, in the bitter-sweet solitude of my private torments, and the modest pockets, in my heart, of bewilderment, and melancholy, and sadness, and suffering, all moods, and emotions, that are somehow so intimate, so comfortingly familiar to me that, while it may indeed not be paradise, this hell, it could at least feel a little, if ever so little, like home. So, please, I thank you; I thank you for your visit, and for your interest, and for your conversation; now leave me well alone, and go at once to heaven!

© Bede Nix, September 2017. All rights reserved.

FRIDAY TRAIN

Mesmerized, absorbed, absent, kidnapped, hostage to deceptively simple, pared down, cut back, fragments, splinters, of dark, dark thought, which surface as word in sentences as yet, thank God, unwritten. A suffocating fog of unknowing, a total and totally overwhelming incomprehension, a falling forever into bottomless depths of despair. Who then, I? A shadow of my could have been … An indentation beneath life’s pressure … A sore and bruised depression, so tender and, to the distracted eye, so subtle, insubstantial, insignificant, and so easily missed … a face pressed lonely against the window pane … or the darkness beyond?
(Perhaps)
(I guess so).
Rest may help …
(Or it may not).
(May I rest in peace).
And sometimes despair has simply its own cruel rhythm; it comes and goes, beating you now here, now there …
The pain at the birth of thought.
(Yet even for the breadcrumbs of thought, I’m strangely grateful.)
(Like a crow, I’m attracted to the sparkle, the glitter of them, and in this way I jab nervously at the thoughts, then steal them away, my treasure).
(Cawing sound from the human animal throat).
These crumbs of thought seem sometimes to form a pattern in which I see perhaps a path.
(Or is this just my imagination?)
(Seeing things?)
(In the labyrinth of the mind).
(Crumbs).
(A sparkle of an idea).
(A thread of thought …)
(The seer, blind … )
(And Theseus, lost … )
(Thesaurus)
(So many words, sounding).
(In supplication).
(And the labyrinth, so lonely and yet also, beneath the din of echoing sound, in the quietness of the breath, so silent, somehow, still).
(Ariadne?)
(I call out).
(Ariadne!)
And my mind, lost, again lost, in the labyrinth.
Where is the thread?
Where is it?
Where?
And you, dear friend …
Dear friend, dear friend …
It really is you, is it not, waiting there, in the shadows?
(Dear friend).
And I thought I was alone!
Come then, and show me once more your great curiosity, and determination, and your joy, your energy, your delight, your light!
(Your love, and your compassion).
(Let’s lift ourselves up, and be like god, and goddess! Why not try, at least; we can do it; and give it a go – why not?)
(Perhaps yes, we whisper).
(Full of hope).
Pass me through a thread, then, a thought, a simple thought, and, one way or another, we’ll find our way out.
We’ll find our way.
(Out).
And we’ll find our …
And find, we …
Even we, weak, in our weakness …
Like so many shadows, shadows of our selves …
And yes; yes, of course!
We’re light, so full of light, dawning, blossoming … and tall, bursting suns of energy, we’re like giants!
(No wonder at times that our shadows loom large! Dispel them, light!)
(And what happiness, now, to … )
Happiness!
Together, gathering to …
The we …
The weak …
The weakened …
And the weekend, at least.
Ah, the weekend …
And so, so what?
So what?
Let’s dance, shall we?
Let’s dance again.
Once more.
Yes.
Yes.
Why not?

© Bede Nix, 2017. All rights reserved.

MONDAY TRAIN

You danced for me this night, making me realize that somewhere within me remained a dry, forgotten longing, still, for precisely this, this dance–your dance, and mine–and life, and love.

Open‑mouthed, wide‑eyed, your dancing, divine, quite took my breath away, setting me ablaze, a dance of fire that consumed me within a great white heat of passion, pure passion, liberating me from the heavy weight of sad memory, setting me free.

And the intensity of this vision turned my very eyes into red hot pools of energy, smouldering with a kind of passionate envy, and longing, to dance at your side, near you, with you, in you, our movement taking us into flight, as if from earth to air, and becoming as wind, becoming as fire.

(Earth. Dust. Ashes.)

(“Now let’s have the time of our lives!”, you told me.)

And on life’s journey, searching warmth in the cold solitude of the lonely night, I gazed at what for a moment seemed a camp side fire, in a dream of warmth, a kind of home and, absorbed in that ecstasy of dancing flame, I lost my thoughts, for a time, in timelessness, my heart on fire.

No words for such a dance, but dance.

© Bede Nix, 2017. All rights reserved.

KNOCK KNOCK

I know, now, that I no longer exist.
(You hear someone speak; perhaps it is you yourself.)
What exists instead, and terribly, is the night: black, substantial, ominous, heavy. And from the night, words: words appearing upon the page as of their own accord, the pen as if writing by itself, the author’s hand passing unnoticed, unseen, across the page;  words forged in the silent darkness, emerging blind from the unseeing night; words ghostly, ethereal, coming as if from nowhere, belonging to no one.
The stillness listening, uncomprehending.
From the depths of the obscure, primitive mind, comes the sound of knocking: a knocking relentless, insistent. Its very urgency shocks: sounds dropping heavily into muffled, sleeping ears, barely hearing; falling like stones into a well; like a voice echoing lonely in a cave; like a child’s anxious heart, beating.
Then, as if in answer to a call, someone stirs, stirs slowly, slowly as from a sleep as deep as death itself.
Someone?
Yes: someone.
(You think: perhaps it is me.)
But for now there is no one.
And of this no one, ask nothing.
The stillness listening, uncomprehending.
The heavy silence punctuating sound.
And let’s describe it, then, in this way:
From where you sit, crouching, in this dark corner of your mind, you see everything. As strange as silence itself, you are as a spider weaving its fine gossamer web. At the same time you are a fly, all sticky-seeing, wide-eyed observance, caught upon a web of your own design, there trapped, condemned. A play of night and day, of darkness and light, you are at the same time the very sound, knocking, that smothers your silent sleep, knocking upon the doors of your dim perception, and knocking, with a terrific pounding noise, the gates of your consciousness. And it’s the very urgency of this noise that most startles you, that shocks you most. Its sound drops heavily into your muffled, sleeping ears, barely hearing; falling there like so many stones into a well; like a voice echoing lonely in a cave; like a child’s anxious heart, beating; softly, at first, then growing louder all the time, repetitive, insistent, relentless.
Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock.
The stillness still listening, uncomprehending, until, as if in answer to a call, someone stirs, at last, slowly, as from a sleep as deep, as profound, as death itself.
(You think again: it is me.)
At first the spirit alone rises from the bed, turning back to you, to your body, to your body with all its turbulent, troubled energy, and only later, as though an afterthought, pulling you after it, bodily, by the arms and legs.  Reluctantly you follow.  You drag yourself across the room to the door, fumbling in the darkness for the door handle.  Finally you locate it, take the door handle in your hand, tighten slowly your grip, turn the handle, then, slowly, ever so slowly, then open slowly the door.
Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock.
An echo, perhaps:  no more.
At first there is not even the hint of a shadow emerging faintly from the obscurity of this darkness.
There is only the echo of the sound of knocking:  the echo of the sound of knocking, loud, upon the walls of your absent, sleeping mind.
Then suddenly you appear, you are there:  little more than a pale, shadowy light, you seem at once fast asleep and wide awake, strange and contradictory like the night itself, a child, just a child, water-eyed with sadness, melancholy as the moon.
And:  “What is it”, you ask of the child, ever so gently.  “What’s wrong?”
But the child looks straight through you, over towards the bed.
Unreal, invisible, as if absent, elsewhere:  you are not there;  you do not exist.
And you ask yourself:  is it me?
The stillness listening, uncomprehending.
The silence between each sound, timeless.
I do not exist.
And yet you hear someone speak:  who?
“Mummy?  Mummy … ?”
The full question is heard only implicitly in this anxious, pathetic voice:  “Mummy, come to me, please, I’m scared”.
“Yes;  yes, what is it?  Yes; yes, I’m coming”, mutters another, older voice, sleepily, from the bed.
You step back, then, so that mother and child can be together, holding each other close, the child, in the arms of the mother, there finding a little solace, comfort, poor thing.
And you watch the scene unfold, a spectator in your own life, too, seemingly, its central drama a total mystery to you, by and large, its meaning and purpose at best obscure.
And it’s then that you know it for sure:  it’s then that you know for sure that you don’t exist.  It’s then that you know that you are no one, nowhere.
And yet you hear a voice, speaking.
And perhaps it is you yourself.
The stillness listening, too, uncomprehending.
The heavy silence punctuating sound.
Timelessness.
And still it goes on, you realize, it continues, as before, this sound, this noise, this infernal knocking, as though nothing has changed, or as though you are back, once more, to where once upon a time you started.
Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock.
And you realize, too, that essentially you’re alone:  that you’ve always been alone.  You tell yourself:  it doesn’t matter, finally, whether you’re asleep or awake, whether you’re in company, or alone, it makes no difference, in the end.  In the darkness of the night one cannot tell one thing apart from another.  It’s all or nothing.  And all the same.
And it’s then that finally you understand that this knocking, too, is you, somehow, and that the noise of this knocking is also the noise of your knocking, somehow, and that the noise of this knocking, relentless, insistent, is somehow a noise that you’re damned to hear forever, pleading:  “Let me in!  Let me in!  Let me back in!”
And so you say to yourself that, more than alone, unseen, unreal, invisible, not there, you are no one, you are nowhere, in this night:  you are lost, as if forever.
And it is as though this were your destiny:  you were born to it.
And only the distant voice of your mother, finally, for company, whispering:
Sweet dreams, my child, sweet dreams:  sleep tight, good night.
(And may your heart be forever a house of prayer).

© Bede Nix, October 2006. All rights reserved.

RUNNING OUT OF TIME

Through a blaze of blinding light, from darkness to darkness, my time runs, and runs out, and I, blood circulating, pulsating, heart pumping, thoughts racing, run with it, as if I and my time were one.

For indeed, I was born, it seems, to run, blood circulating, pulsating, heart pumping, thoughts racing, running, at one and the same time, into time, and out of time, and that’s just life, I guess, and death.

I was born, then, a runner; and, at each and every moment, blood circulating, pulsating, heart pumping, thoughts racing, I run as for my life.

But if I run only a sprint, or else a marathon, and whether a single, double, marathon, or something longer still, some ultra-style ordeal, I know not yet.

Yet, if there is a running track, beneath my feet, it runs surely straight to my destination, my destiny, and my death, like time’s arrow; this, I know.

But for now, thankfully …

But what am I saying, “thankfully”?

For what, or where, the relief?

There’s seemingly no end to it!

It’s never ending!

So thanks. And no thanks.

And yes, thanks; and no thanks.

Yes, thankfully …

(Thankfully).

And for now, thankfully …

No end to it.

For now no end to it, as far as I can see, for I see no end to it, I cannot see an end to it, this runner’s track, running straight to my destination, my destiny, my death, thankfully, no, thankfully, thankfully, no, thank goodness; yet, how then, I ask you, can I pace myself, blood circulating, pulsating, heart pumping, thoughts racing?

How far have I still to run?

For through a blaze of blinding light, from darkness to darkness, my time runs, and runs out, and I, blood circulating, pulsating, heart pumping, thoughts racing, run with it, as if I and my time were one.

And, breath, by panting breath, blood circulating, pulsating, heart pumping, thoughts racing, I run, heartbeat by heartbeat, breath by breath, stride by stride, step by step, footfall, by footfall.

And, to try to outrun the loneliness, and the blood circulating, pulsating, heart pumping,  thoughts racing, all of which at once express me and escape me and elude me, running away from me, forcing the pace, intensifying the race, but always ahead, always outrunning me, and outrunning me still, I count the years, the months, the weeks, the days, the hours, the minutes, the seconds.

And yet I’m running out of time, even so; and one day, or another, some day, soon, always too soon, never too soon, I shall be declared at once “winner” of this race, “winner” in the sense simply that I endured it to its end (not having been brave enough to turn my back and walk away, disgusted), and I shall then be briefly celebrated, at that time, perhaps, in a fittingly tight fit ceremony that will no doubt involve some passing, honourable mention, and kind words, no matter if so very far from what once was the truth, which was that I was also the loser of this race, who was lost at the end, for sure, but also lost at the beginning, and from the start. And then, blood circulating, pulsating, heart pumping, thoughts racing, in binary, one, two, rhythm, winning, and losing, winning, and losing, over and over and over and over again, running on, until then, you’re there, at last, that moment, when you’re there no longer, because it’s all over, and it’s all over, and it’s definitively all over, and  out. Good night. Be gone.

Lost at the end.

Lost at the beginning.

Lost from the start.

And running each fleeting moment, out of time; out of time; out of time …

© Bede Nix, 13 October 2017. All rights reserved.

LIKE MY BREATH, IN TIME

My spine feels strangely brittle; shivering thin beneath a flesh, inadequate.
And, long day tired, back stooped, shoulders hunched, head bowed, the eyes drop down, in looking, seeing, not, upon a ground, too hard, and unforgiving; but the feet, walking on, even so, as if from habit, only; left, then right, left, then right, then left, and so on, and so on, and so on; left, right, left …
And I watch, as if in trance, thinking: if this were a dance, with whom, then, these steps?
There’s no one.
And it’s as cold as death; spine-chilling, mortuary, cold.
Except, looking up, then, once more, and captured, as if by some scent of beauty, some instinct, animal, I see again, in a jerk, or twitch, of life, and fresh, bright, eyes, how beautiful she is, the moon, this night.
And the moon, this night, drawn over there, between the branches of the silver birch, glittering, like a diamond in my teary eye, on a night, so cold, so beautiful.
And the moonlight, frozen, like my breath, in time.
Don’t you see?

© Bede Nix, 27 February 2018. All rights reserved.

MOUNTAINS OF THE MIND

Under pressure from the land’s embrace, and joined, as if, like hands, in prayer, our earth’s mountains point upwards, reach upwards, towards the sky; and there, across vast expanses of forgotten time, they come sometimes to grow impossibly tall, dwelling proudly, in the heavens, like gods.

And, the higher these mountains reach up into the sky, the greater the downward drop, below, of their shadows, into valleys, and lowlands, falling.

And, these mountains, and these valleys, these highlands, and these lowlands, feature time’s contours, and creases, which describe our landscape, in drawing, tracing, outlining, there, upon it, lines, so many lines, like timelines, to human eyes, upon the face, not of human history, exactly, but of something much greater, such as time’s own story.

And, part-blinded by the present’s fleeting moment, it may seem to us, at times, as if we were living again in an age of easy opinions and unthinking judgements, where we encounter but too little, in our daily lives, of the most basic human kindness, and consideration, and pity, and forgiveness, and compassion, and humanity;  and where sometimes we encounter, instead, and too often, much misunderstanding, and mistrust, and anxiety, and fear, and frustration, and anger, and hatred, and violence; and as if we were living again in times, that is, of prejudice, and intolerance, and disputed identity, and persecution, and exclusion; and in times, that is, of indignity, and ignorance, and despondency, and darkness, and despair; and in times, that is, of barbed wire, and bullets, and bombs; and in times, that is, of conflict, and terror, and tragedy, and war.

And, in times, like these, these same mountains, and valleys, symbols at once of unity, and division, despair, and hope, may promise some protection, some safety, some security, as in a refuge, or a simple mountain cave; secret pockets of warmth, and comfort, which promise perhaps a home to homeless human hearts, and spirits.

And, these mountains, sometimes, often, offer also a point of far seeing vantage, and observation, where distances may begin to seem relative, entirely relative, and where all separation, and division, may likewise seem suddenly so small, and so petty, and so inconsequential, and so unimportant, and where suddenly the eye may be fixated not on difference, but be relaxed, rather, and fully opened, into the very fullest human vision, and like an open hand, and heart, of thought.

And, in this way, our landscapes may offer us sometimes a larger perspective.

And, sometimes, such an enlarged perspective may be of vital importance, as if a matter of human life, or human death.

And, imagining, for a moment, these mountains, of the mind, I find myself wondering, who among us can perceive the precise moment that separates human death, from human life, or the invisible, from the visible?

For, in observing these mountains, of the mind, the passage, from night, to day, may seem but as the dawn’s sweet unveiling of her face, in beauty; and the passage, from day, to night, but a lover’s soft, and gentle, caress.

Sleep easily, then, dear friend; and, in life’s fullest beauty, awake, as well.

© Bede Nix, Among the Cedars of Mount Lebanon, and in a Search for Understanding, 21-29 April 2018. All rights reserved.

IN SEARCH OF LIGHT

In search of light …

In search of light, I stood at the edge.

In search of light, I stood at the very edge.

In search of light, I stood at the very, very edge, and looked up, straining my eyes.

In search of light, I stood at the very edge, of the very highest clifftop, in those parts, and looked up, and looked up, and looked up, straining my eyes, seemingly to no avail.

In search of light.

For there were many times, and so many times, and so very many times, that the loneliness felt vast, and boundless, seemingly, like an ocean. And at those times the tiniest spark, or light, of creative impulse, divine, in each, and every, slightest, opening, and relaxing, of human hand, as if in wave, of heart, or crease, of cheek, or slightly parted crest, of teeth, white, smile, or fleeting moment’s fleetingly warm, kind eye, or gentle, forgiving, gaze, or tender touch, as if in love, defeated me, at once, in my loneliness, my profound loneliness, my lonely I … and in this way how surprised then I was … to be again surprised … yes, surprised … one more time … one last time … by these sudden, and unhoped for, promises, of freedom … and this giving rise each time to a feeling … these sudden, unhoped for, promises, of freedom … and a feeling that then would draw me back, again, and at once, into a seeming promise, rather, of a freedom, joyful, in life, itself, and a dream, remaining somehow alive, of a still tremendous future, and happiness, and a tremendous future, and happiness, and a tremendous future happiness, in living, life, in love, in living love, somehow, and this feeling, in fact, as if, living, again, in this life, as if, again, I were falling, in love, and living love, again, a little, and then again, and again, still more, and all over, and all over, and all over again, one last time, one more time, one more last time, with this person, beauty, passing, or that person, beauty, passing, this one here, then, or that one there, then, when, in truth, beauty, all are passing me, and all have passed me, without seeing, without noticing, beauty, passing me by, passed me by, completely by, unnoticed, and alone, and remaining, so I remained, my lonely I, in this, then, quiet, and still, my loneliness, my ever deeper loneliness, my profound loneliness, like seeming destiny.

And it strikes me now, somehow, that this too, too, pitiable, surrendered, defenceless, state, was a little like that of a man, perhaps, a little, little, like a man, too lonely, and only, convinced, fully, of his condemnation, and condemned, fully, by that conviction, that freedom, that freedom from his lonely solitude, and that freedom from his solitude’s lonely anguish, and anguished mind, would come, at last, only, in death, finally, and that, until such liberation, one were evermore condemned to live life like a prisoner, chained, in solitary confinement, and this his life sentence.

In search of light.

And so, in search of light, I thought again to take myself out, and to take myself off, then, on one more, if last, and final, journey.

And so, in search, then, of light, I stood at the very edge, of the very highest clifftop, in those parts, and looked up, and looked up, and looked up, straining my eyes, seemingly to no avail. And my eyes, then, soon tiring, I bowed, again, my head, my neck, and looked, again, and looked again, down, and again down, and again down, from there, to the sheer drop, dropping down, to the dark, roaring, sea, churning away, below. And from the sea’s depths, its very depths, the eye of the storm seemed to stare then straight back at me, unblinking, like a face, without a face, and, faceless, face, of the faceless, collective, all, in great bursts, of gnashing, biting, rawness, and bitter cold, and in flashing, sharp, teeth, white, of spray, and howling, wailing winds, and roaring gale, of gaping, open, mouth, crying out, in an ocean, seemingly, of meaning, that’s meaningless, no meaning, and meaningless, at least, to me, and so this whole vision, this whole life, were as if emptied, drained, drained, and emptied, totally, finally, of meaning, meaning, in my eyes, in this eye, of the storm, such that utterly dark, and incomprehensible, all below, and around me, it was, and as if all this were giving, in me, a twisted birth, to both a dizzying, sickening, nausea, and a feeling of profound and unredeemed, and unredeemable, emptiness. And something terrible.

And yet, at the same time, this mind’s descent seemed so devilishly inviting, that the risk, rather high, was also that one might, and might so easily, and all too easily, and willingly, offer oneself, or lose oneself, to, or in, that drop, such that, thinking to offer oneself to, or to lose oneself, in, that drop, for a little too long, just a moment, too long, it would come to pass, and one would dissolve, then, or be dissolved, and melt away, abruptly, eyelids closing, into a feverish, nightmare, dream, like some damnable, demonic, delirium, and an eternal night, of one’s, forever, extinguished, soul.

In search of light.

In search, then, of light, and lighter spirits, and to try to calm this terrible anxiety, and foreboding, this terrible feeling of fear, and trembling, this toxic taste of terror, I stood, still, at the very edge and, as if from instinct, pure animal instinct, I looked again up, straining my eyes.

And in search, then, of light, and lighter spirits, and to try to calm this terrible anxiety, and foreboding, this terrible feeling of fear, and trembling, this toxic taste of terror, I stood, still, at the very edge, and looked again up, straining my eyes, but I could not even recognize the sky, so dark was it, and brooding, and menacing, and mean, and ugly, and so very dense, and thick, with closed down, smothering, suffocating, thought, clouded tightly together in armies of angry thunderheads, clenched up, too tightly, as so many fists, fighting, taut, in tension, and the whole world but a raging storm; and there was no light to be seen here anywhere, or precious little.

And still I searched.
And still I searched.
And still I searched.

In search of light.

And still, at my back, some wild, unruly, instinct, nudged, poked, and pushed me on, such that – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – don’t look up! – don’t look down! – don’t think! – don’t hesitate! – in my absolute desperation, I stepped out, into my only remaining belief, my last hope, and refuge, which was my faith, finally, in the sky, in the sky itself.

And there, then, suddenly, in the sky, and as in the most extraordinary, and beautiful, dream, or under sway of some great magic in the human imagination, divine, or as if opening fully, at last, the mind’s eye, my spirits, taking wing, soared suddenly upwards, and flew.

For here, suddenly, she was, and is, to be seen, and to be fully seen, and to be truly seen, and to be truly and fully seen, at last, the sky.

(And, if only you knew, already now, that which, soon, you’ll surely come, to know, that what a feeling of freedom, this was, immense. And what a joy.)

And then, as in a vision, of a solitary, migrating bird, thinking, unthinking, that’s but an occasional glint, or fleeting, flaming, flickering, of light, silhouetted, in the eye, of the sky, and ray, of sun, and that flies on, alone, and entirely alone, across such vast distances, in space, and in time, one may ask, and asks, then, who might think, or who could think, or who might have thought, or who could have thought, that these long, hard, and seemingly never ending migrations, of mind, body, and spirit, and so many adventures, and travels, and so many flights of the imagination, and so many journeys, and across so many days, and nights, and in so many ecstasies, and agonies, and in so much pleasure, and so much pain, might yet one day still lead to such a magnificently clear blue sky, as this, and to this somehow delicate, gentle, forgiving, feeling, whispering, that all the long, great memory of former solitude, and loneliness, were itself, then, but an early morning’s mist, an ocean spray, soon passing, across the joyful, teary, eye, of a new day’s watery wonderment, and the mind, divine, bursting suddenly, into a great light, dazzling, like the sun.

And what light!
And what light!
And what light!

Look up, then, in search of light, in mind’s reflection.

As if we too were only that, ocean breath, and clear blue sky.

And how nice to bathe, then, my heart, if but for a moment, in bliss.

© Bede Nix, 18 May 2018. All rights reserved.

TREE OF LIFE

I look up, but cannot see the top.
How many branches has this great tree, of life, still to climb, perhaps, towering upwards, in this day’s glorious sunlight, towards the sky.
I look up, unseeing, into the sun’s gilded, dazzling, eyes, and still I cannot see the top.
One arm reaches up, even so – and then the other follows; two branches more, at least.
Go on.

© Bede Nix, 21 May 2018. All rights reserved.

A MOMENT'S REFLECTION

If I have any ability at all, which often I doubt, and let alone talent, for goodness’ sake – at once not much, and all I could possibly hope to do – it’s perhaps an ability, extraordinarily modest, as if nothing at all, simply to catch, and to reflect back, a little, if ever so little, of the brillance of that light that, by some great good fortune, I see, all around me, reflected, upon my eye, in all its beauty, magnificent.

© Bede Nix, 21 May 2018. All rights reserved.

JOURNEYS OF THE MIND

All our journeys begin as journeys of the mind.

We travel, through our mind’s eye, upon trains of thought.

Or is it that our mind’s eye floats, rather, as upon a flying magic carpet, above a sea of story that’s always there, in potential, and simply waiting, patiently, to be told?

John Berger reminds us that our most important labour may be a labour of the imagination.

Take your time, then, and think it through.

© Bede Nix, 21 May 2018. All rights reserved.

MAKE IT SO

(Make It So)

It’s now time.

And now, in time, again, I have become thought’s trembling, vibrant, word, and, in word, again, thinking, time, I thought, and thought to reach out to, and realize, you, in sound, unspoken, that, unspoken, speaking, speaks to you, and unspoken, speaking, speaks you, as if this I, this, I, in my expression, in imagination, expanded, were also this you, this, you, in your expression, in imagination, expanded, and the both of us but then a shared reflection, now, caught out, timeless, in time, and moving, unmoving, like a twinkle of time’s starlight within a mind’s eternal moment, speed, of, sound, sounds space, and held there, sound, in space, as if, for always, and forever, spoken, unspoken, and quiet, and still, in that great beauty, adoring, of one mind’s eye, and singular gaze, unblinking, being, you’re, your, you’re, you, you’re, your, you’re, I, in thought, thinking, time, and time, and time, now, time, and again.

And so here I am : and here you are.

And here you are : and here I am.

We.

A meeting, or perhaps, more profoundly, or accurately, quite simply, a making, or manifestation, a testing, or trying out, a texturing, and texting, a fabrication, or feeling, drawn out, taut, in string, or line, of threaded, woven, thought, sounded, plucked, and played, and fleshed out, embodied, ennobled, enrobed, from a single, seeded, splendid, beautiful, minding, mind, mind’s, mind, minding, mindful, imaginings, immense, and simply sublime, divine.

Perfect, like a diamond, mind.

And now I.

Now you.

Now we.

And now, as you read these words –you, we, I– you bring them back to life, as living thought, again, once more.

Do you see?

And, as you see, and you are, and you are, you are, reading, these words, these thoughts, clearly you are, you are, you, too –if supposing, that is, that your intelligence is natural, not artificial, as indeed, one supposes– and you are, you, also, are, like these thoughts, like these words, coming alive, and living, again, then, now.

And these words come alive, in you.

And you come alive, in these words.

And, as you, you are, you are reading these words, these thoughts, and bringing them again to life, as living thoughts, sustained, for a moment, held, within your mind, you intuit, perhaps consciously, perhaps unconsciously, that, your, mind, too, is being sustained, for a moment, held, in living, thought, within, and within some, larger, thing, thinking, thinks, imagination, thought, and, as you breathe –breathe– breathe, in, and as you breathe –breathe– breathe, out, then, there, again, you are, in wave, upon wave, of inspiration, and exhalation.

And, in inspiration, clearly, there is you, thought.

And, in thought, clearly, there is you, desire.

And, in desire, clearly, there is you, and some sense of incompleteness, something missing, or lacking, something wanted, perhaps, or needed, perhaps, and perhaps to be sought out, still, and found, or simply remembered, and recalled.

And, in the silent sadness, or dissatisfaction, or loneliness, or melancholy, of that which misses, still, its completeness, in a state of longing, perhaps, or perhaps, nostalgia, one recognizes, or knows again, calls out for, or simply recalls, and finds, or re-finds, and refines, that basic, human, or sublimely divine, or basic, human, summons, stretch out, reach forth, grow, expand, explore, so as to come to know, that this, is, was, will, to be, be, to be, a new, departure, in a sense, as if, in search, and to embark, upon a quest and, as if, in seeing, to undertake, a voyage and, as if, in light’s eternity, to begin, a journey, now, in time.

And so, if you are reading, thinking, and not only reading, thinking, these words, but also reading, thinking, between the lines, that attempt, to contain, shape, channel, and direct, these words –yours, ours, mine– my congratulations, my dear friend, for you are not only alive, but you are also intelligent; you are an intelligent life form, so well done, and that’s superb, that’s excellent, and let’s go on.

And I ask you:

If now you are not only living, breathing, being, but also reading, thinking, mindful, mind, then, what, then, now, will, you do?

Let me say this.

(We. You. I.)

If you have a heart’s beating pulse, dance generously, and grandly, to its rhythm.

If you have a dream, dream it big.
If you have a vision, step into your vision, and realize it.
If you have a talent, express it.
If you have a voice, sing out with it.
If you have a vocation, follow it.
And if you have something to say, say it.

Now, at once.

For you are the perfect expression of yourself.

And if you can, you surely must.

Breathe in – inspiration, inhalation; exhalation – breathe out.

If you can, you surely must.
If you can, you surely must.
If you can, you surely must.

Breathe in – inspiration, inhalation; exhalation – breathe out.

And, if you can, you surely must.

Who, me?

Yes, you.
Yes, you.
Yes, you.

It’s time now.

Make it so.

© Bede Nix, 31 May 2018. All rights reserved.

LIGHT IN EYE

My eye opens wide, and yet, not nearly wide enough, for me, still, to see, and to remain, seeing, and to see, still, and to be still, still, absorbed, and to absorb, then, any, but, the very palest, reflection, of you, as through a mist, or spray, of water, falling, rainbow, fluid, in fountains, of light, of dazzling light, flowing, overflowing, as if, for, ever, it seems, in this, your beauty, magnificent, in time, such that, even when, looking across, to the far, horizon, I refresh, my sight, in visions, marvellous, of, for example, mountains, and valleys, forests, and fields, streams, and rivers, seas, and skies, it’s as if still I see nothing, see nothing, almost nothing, of you, still, to see, my beauty’s blinded eye.

And yet, everywhere I look, even then, somehow, I do see you, or at least, sense, or feel you, or perhaps it’s that I intuit you, recognize, and recall, you, or perhaps only that I imagine you, somehow, asking, what, then, might it mean, if even, only, in my thoughts, I can form, or formulate, of you, some idea, or some conception, and, in some sense, at least, begin, thereby, to find you.

And, how infinitely sweet, and intoxicating, this, the perfume, of your presence, and how infinitely gentle, and soothing, this, your touch, upon my skin, and how very warm, this, your whispering breath, within my seeking heart, forlorn, from lonely longing, help, to heal, and how infinitely tender, this, your eye’s adoring gaze, in my reflection, and how infinitely dear, this, your smile, quite simply, naked, upon my lips.

And come bathe with me, then, my love, if but, for a moment, eternal, in this, this ocean, of bliss.

For the light of the morning has given birth to me, once more, and the sun shall surely shine, this day, in my heart.

Light in body, light in spirit.
Light in mind.
Light in heart.
Light in eye.

© Bede Nix, 1 June 2018. All rights reserved.

YOURSELF AGAIN AFLOAT, A HUMAN FLOW

Clearly what you, in your eyes, see, and appreciate, perhaps love, or adore -or perhaps not- is your own unique vision, of this tremendous, cosmic, river, vast, following behind, and flowing, all around, and before you, immense, in time, and in all its glorious multiplicity, its seeming infinity, of perspectives, stories, allegiances, identities, lives, and forms, and in which, and on which, if but, for a moment, if but, for a brief, fleeting, moment, you find yourself, at the centre, somehow, again, your universe, afloat.

© Bede Nix, 3 June 2018. All rights reserved.

GIFTS, TO SHARE

To open yourself up, to release, and to share, and, in this way, also, to discover, little by little, who you are, or who you may become, when trying out, exercising, and developing, your talents, and your potential, is perhaps, in a sense, not so far, in terms of sensation, from being frightened, quite simply, and feeling scared – when, this being frightened, and this feeling scared, like a child who must give up something dear, concerns – well, how to name, or describe it? – your earth, your land, your ground, your time, your labour, your harvest, your produce, your property, your reason, your reason for being, your existence, your identity, your self-identity, and, in short, your world, your universe, such that – however one names, or describes it – to be truly fertile, and abundant, imaginative, and creative – as universe, world, identity, existence, property, produce, harvest, labour, time, ground, land, and earth – whatever name, or description, fits best – well, for that to be a place of rich soil, containing seeds of great promise, for growth, and for growing something worthwhile – something, that’s to say, worth sharing – and to share whatever that is with family, and friends – strangers too, why not? (friends, as yet, unrecognized) – and, sharing it out, that thing, these things, crops, fruit, or common goods, and the expression of talent, in the community – future harvests, in the ripening, and eventual fullness, of time – one’s ground, first and foremost, perhaps, must be prepared, cut into, as by a ploughshare, and turned over, made fertile.

And it’s perhaps that cutting away, and separating, with its resulting sensation, seemingly inevitable, of pain, and loss, and that experience of feeling oneself at once frightened, scared, then scarred, by life, that opens one up to being separated, seemingly, from something, of oneself, of value, and to share that precious, separated, part, by simply giving it away, in an opening of the hand, and of the heart, and of the mind, so as to let it all go, and, letting it all go, to be again liberated, and free.

And yet, as with many a seeming sacrifice, it’s only then, and precisely then, paradoxically, at the moment of letting go, and sharing, that one is opened, also, to receiving something back, in return.

And it is in this way, in giving, and receiving, and sharing all, that all then grow richer, and happier, and wiser, too, and root themselves in fabulously fertile soil, and grow tall.

For the earth shares of her abundance, is generous, and giving; and should we not be likewise so?

Express yourself, then; and, in this way, and by this practice, come to allow yourself, and to discover, for yourself, little by little, your very fullest expression, such that, one day, on point of departure, you’ll realize yourself to have been fully expressed, and something magnificent, noble, beautiful, and whole.

Open up, then, and share.

It’s the only way.

© Bede Nix, 5 June 2018. All rights reserved.

BEST OF ALL

Carl Jung once commented as follows: “Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge”.

How do you judge others?

How would you wish to be judged?

And how do you judge yourself?

Are you the very best, in your view? Or not quite yet, the best?

In any case, if really you wish to be the best, and to be the very, very, best (that you can be), the winning formula is surprisingly simple: to be the best, just keep doing your best, and do so over and over again, beginning right now, then simply going on, forever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever; Amen!

Be the best that you can be, that’s all; the very best!

And just try to do your best.

Always your best.
Always your best.
Always your best.

Do your best, my friend.

And I know you can. And I know you will.

(You will).

So don’t judge others, if you can help it; but also don’t mind too much when others judge you, if really they wish or need to do so. I mean, who really cares? For a person quick to pass judgment on you may in reality reveal very little about you, but a great deal about themselves, and that not flattering. And a person’s judgment does not in any way define who you are even if it may offer an important insight into the person themselves who is passing judgment. In other words, a person’s judgment tells you something of their story, but not necessarily of yours. Similarly, a person’s judgment is not a truth, necessarily; it’s just someone’s opinion, or point of view.

And so, while always welcoming the wisdom, the teachings, the generous guidance, the constructive criticism, the helpful instructions, of one, and all, as teachers and guides genuine in their intention to help and to educate you, don’t ever, ever, ever, lose sleep over, or take to heart, an empty, shallow, miserly, carping, criticism; rather, let the judgment go, quite simply, saying, in the last analysis, well, who are you to judge? And, given the ugliness of your tone, who really cares, what you think, at the end? Who really cares?

And, if you yourself feel summarily dismissed by the harsh judgment of your fiercest critic, dismiss likewise him, or her, in turn; and, in summary, just let it go.

In the familiar text of the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 7, we read “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is there in thine own eye?”

Perhaps the following is not a bad attitude, or response, or rule of thumb, to adopt, or make, or offer, when facing a person somewhat quick to judge; it goes like this, “Before you judge me, make sure you’re perfect”. At the same time, do try to apply this rule also to yourself, too, meaning that, unless you are unquestionably perfect in some way, which I doubt – and even then – try not to evaluate yourself too generously; don’t show off, in other words; don’t boast, and brag; don’t be big-headed, and arrogant; don’t be such a fool, and such a bore, and all talk, put simply; for, in this way, at least, you’d really rather better leave others to be the judge –  don’t you think so?

And, in any case, whatever you do, don’t worry about being the best – that empty vanity; it’s nothing but a distraction, and a nonsense; forget it!

At the same time, know that those who really are the very best, or very, very close to being so, and advancing well, in their ascent, to such mastery, and to such Olympian peaks, focus always, and only, on still more, and still deeper, study, and learning, and practice, and ever deeper study, and learning, and practice, so as just to go deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and deeper, into their craft, into their subject, into their passion, into their vocation, into their calling, and, in this way, they ask, and will, only to develop the training, and the understanding, to go farther, and deeper, and ever farther, and ever deeper; in short, their attitude is one simply of focus, absolute focus, and discipline, and determination, and dedication.

Searching online earlier today for additional inspiration on the subject of judgment, I came across a wish, or perhaps a prayer, that reads as follows: “May we have compassion first, love always, and judgment never”. And it seems that the Dalai Lama once observed that “love is the absence of judgment.”

And so, instead of passing judgment on others, let’s offer them instead our open hands, and hearts, and to aspire to be the best that we can be at being present, and empathetic, and compassionate, and understanding, and forgiving, and, that’s to say, not “not” caring at all, but rather, being one who cares about everything, absolutely everything, everything, everything, and everyone.

That’s clearly to be the best; the best of all.

© Bede Nix, 8 June 2018. All rights reserved.

TO CALL, THESE THOUGHTS, TO YOU, MY SOUL

I can no more will my heart to end its restless, incessant, beating, and to turn itself to stone, or my blood to cease its circulation, and its flow, and freeze, immediately, at once, this instant, in my veins, as on command, than I can turn, as if there were a way, my thoughts, my thoughts, a way, to turn, to turn away, my thoughts, away, to turn away, my thoughts, from you, and you, and you, and again, again you, and again you, my racing blood, and heart’s desire, in love, and in love’s longing, and inspiration, yours, and yours again, and again, and again, to inhale, and to breathe out, to inhale, and to breathe out, then, as if, to call, these thoughts, to call, these thoughts, to you, and of you, into the world, as if, in such a way, again, to find you, magnificent, beautiful, peerless, perfect, and so to draw you, near, in my mind, in mind’s eye, in my mind’s eye, a vision, divine, and to see you, again, and again see you, to see you, to see, and to know you, to see, and to know you, near, and nearer, still, quivering, still, and trembling, still, still, still, the soft, warm, breeze, upon my lips, your sigh, and your body’s bliss washed over me, blood’s flow, and beating hearts, my soul.

© Bede Nix, 12 June 2018. All rights reserved.

THE ONLY ONE

“Never again will a story be told as though it were the only one.” (John Berger)

And as I look.
And as I look for you.
And as I look to you.
And as I look, to you, now … ; you are the only one.

And as I look, and as I look to you, and as I look to you now, and my gaze settles, you become, for a moment, my exclusive focus; and, at this very moment of seeing you – here, now – I somehow lose you, too, or lose myself, rather, and cease to be – for you, then, are the entirety of my vision, and I no longer – you fill my world, and are all that is; you are the only one.

And as I look.
And as I look for you.
And as I look to you.
And as I look, to you, now … ; you are ever, and always, still, the one and only; you are the only one.

And yet, you must surely know that, at the same time, you are not nor ever will be the only one; and this, in truth, if only because, stepping back, we ourselves, already, together, make two.

And know, then, too, that you’re not the only one; and that you’re not the only one, lonely, to feel this way; you’re not alone.

But clearly it’s not always so very easy to connect with, and to enjoy, and to benefit from, a meeting of hearts, and of minds, and of bodies.

How, then, can I recognize, and meet you; you, the only one, and not, the only one; human face, to human face; still being so?

I do not know.

And yet, and yet, and yet, I do know, somehow, that, that … ; that, that … ; that, that …

(Singing out, your many names).

And, in the sounds of faraway lands, and the music of strangers, I do know, or feel I know, that one sometimes catches, too, the strain, or echo, of some familiar human melody, and hears in it an ambiguous, enigmatic, but beautiful, so beautiful, too beautiful, invitation; it’s something, perhaps, like a summons, gentle, but insistent; a gentle, but insistent, summons, to set off, and to travel, and to embark, within the great adventure of life’s brief arc, upon a further life’s journey, and to go out into the world, toward a far horizon, like a sun, or a moon, which appears to draw half-circles each day, each night, across the sky; and indeed, it’s as if it’s written into our musical DNA, this need to move around, to explore, and to travel; and it feels often as if we’ve no other option but to heed the call, and to embrace the road, and simply to go; as if it’s an urge, a need, an overwhelming impulse, an instinct; a child grows into walking, upon the ground, upon the earth; a fish swims in rivers, and oceans; and a bird takes flight, taking wing, upon the air; is it not more or less so?

And yet, in the sounds of faraway lands, and the music of strangers, one may, at the same time, hear something, too, like a call, a gentle, quiet, and reassuring, but at the same time insistent, and persistent, call, to turn back, and to return, to that place, intuitively, one recalls, and one recognizes, as home; as if, even in the sounds of faraway lands, and even in the music of strangers, one hears, still, sometimes, somehow – not understanding – this human music – not only the sound of the other, but something else, too, something more, something deeper, something greater, and something, perhaps, of a greater intelligence, and light, and wisdom than we’ve words to describe, humming, hidden, in the harmonics, of this music, like a vibration, familiar, and recognized, and that perhaps has sounded, from the beginning, and which perhaps we’ve heard, too, if unconsciously, from the beginning, and which, string of the heart, gently plucked, and voice, aquiver, one responds to, at once, while hesitating, even so, and struggling, too, to name.

Mother!

My own dear mother, already some years passed away, and departed …

And shall I one day hear, again, and recognize, your voice?

Or are you in fact not still sounding, here, in my ear, to hear (my heart), here, and there, within, and all around me, for always?

And here I drop down, in my thoughts, once again and, once more, a child, relaxed, stretched out, upon a bed of sun-warmed summer meadow, place my ear to the ground, and listen, listen, listen, listening, to her slow, grounding, heartbeat, and pulse, and rhythm, and vibration, and to her low, gentle, sound, so familiar, and reassuring, this hidden, humming, ground, foundational, and inspirational, to one, and all.

And yet, strange litany, this; strange music, indeed; both grounding, and grounded; and both the ground itself, home, to harmony, and the melody, at the same time, above it, that plays upon the ground, like something in the air; a whispering breath, a breeze, a sounding song, and an enchantment, enchanting, chanting …

Sound of my mother;
Sound of my other.

Sound of mother;
Sound of other.

Sound of the mother;
Sound of the other.

And here then am I.

A shy, reserved, cautious, wary, child; and I can well recall my mother encouraging me – take heart – at various times, in various places – to pluck up the courage to approach and to begin a conversation with children near to me, new to me, unfamiliar and, as yet, not friends.

Where. When. What. Why. Who.

(So many question words).

(So many questions).

And, so many questions, now, here, still, in mind.

Marks, on the page, questioning, again, and again, in mind, the mind.

Questions, marking, the mind, that, always questioning, questions, always.

And, in certain respects, perhaps, these question words comprise our most basic, our fundamental, our key questions. Key questions, indeed; meaning perhaps that, used skilfully, they unlock closed doors (my opened heart), and liberate, release, set free.

(And indeed, it’s as if the right questions, asked at the right time, and in the right place, help us to ascend the ladder of a musical, and emotional, scale, and liberate, in doing so, our voices, and our hearts, into a sky of freedom, sounding bliss).

So many questions, in any case.

(So many!).

But let’s see if, little by little, we can be freed from them, shall we?

(Answering yes, and yes, and yes!)

So, firstly this, as follows:

Where could, should, or might one find the necessary calm, courage, and confidence, and from where could, should, or might one develop the most helpful, and appropriate, attitude, on the basis of which, and thanks to which, if only as a first attempt, an essay, a beginning, successfully, and meaningfully, to greet, meet with, speak to, and understand you, another?

Said simply, how on earth shall we come to be friends and, becoming friends, mature into being truly friends and, being truly friends, develop some shared familiarity, such that, little by little, somehow, some time, someday, soon, I’ll know that I’ll find myself honoured, and absolutely honoured, and absolutely delighted, to host you, in my home, and for you to find rest there, as my guest; and such that, little by little, somehow, some time, someday, soon, I’ll know that I’ll find myself honoured, and absolutely honoured, and absolutely delighted, to be invited, and welcomed, to find rest there, as your guest, in a place that you yourself call home; and this, so that, together, we can travel out from that dark, confusing, wilderness, and loneliness, of no one, nowhere, special, and do so, together, in gradual, growing, awareness, so as to get, little by little, to somewhere, there, where, becoming, ever, more, aware, and ever, more, aware, and ever, more, aware, we go, and going, go, so as to come, and, coming, come, at last, then, to there, where, fully present, you are, relaxed, and at ease, heart’s ease, here, in conversation, together, where it feels, again, as home.

For this, surely, is one of the most mysterious and magical riches in our life’s storytelling; namely that, with a little patience, and a willingness to learn, we may find ourselves opening up to, and sharing, and celebrating, all kinds of extraordinary friendships, and pleasures, and joys; indeed, we may find ourselves on a great and splendid adventure, travelling far, far, far, far, far, from where, once before, we began, and yet still, somehow, seemingly, in our element, and feeling well, as if at home, now, again, at last, in all the world.

And so, well … let’s try to think it through … for when facing, when encountering, when meeting, for the first time, a stranger, someone new, perhaps the most helpful, and positive, and constructive, attitude, to hold is, indeed, an attitude of calm – calm, meaning that the breath is deep, and relaxed, and easy – without constraint of any kind; and an attitude of courage – courage, meaning that the heart is at its most fully human, open, attentive, and engaged; and an attitude of confidence – present, aware, and awake – confidence, meaning that one encounters another with open heart’s at once warm smile, relaxed in face, and with open arms, and open mind, too, taking the person immediately on trust, and into trust, as if in faith.

(Thinking it through).

And, in addition, like a good mother, maybe, a bit, perhaps, and ever practical, and like a good father, too, one might add, thinking always, first and foremost, to her child, and to his child, one should start maybe, perhaps, with practicalities, and not forget the all‑important basics, so fundamental, and so necessary, to a rich performance of this, our little human drama, and story, and thus set, possibly, the stage, with care, for a meaningful meeting, and conversation; and the question, that’s to say, is this: has one, then, at a most basic, modest, humble, human, level, carried out what might best be described, in a sense, as one’s “duty of care”, as one human being to another?

Meaning what, then?

What then might that mean?

And what might that involve?

As a first attempt at an answer, and in an initial, and only indicative list, I think that it might mean asking some, and perhaps all, of the questions drafted here, as follows:

(My friend).

Do you need to drink something? Or to eat something?

Do you wish to wash, and freshen up?

Do you need to change your clothes?

Do you need to rest?

And, are you sitting comfortably, here, and feeling at ease – feeling entirely at ease?

And, that’s to say: are the lights okay for you, and not too dim, and not too bright?

And is this music okay for you, too, and not too soft, and not too loud?

Or would a few minutes of silence not be more refreshing to your ears, and surely quietening, too, of a mind’s busy thoughts, far travelling, and so rarely settled, and still?

What do you wish to do?

(Human communication styles. Human music. Human language. Human soundings. Human hearts, humming, and pulsating, all).

(And, sometimes, also, silence, as if, golden, or divine).

And yet, even if one has succeeded – that very rarest of achievements – in more or less polishing to perfection a full, or fairly full, list of some, perhaps, of these, the most helpful, if basic, completely basic, human, attitudes; and even when our above-mentioned loosely indicative list of “preliminaries” have all been somehow, and sort of, covered, and more or less satisfactorily accounted for; then, still, well … and, well … and, oh well … for, in a spirit, and a sigh, of some resignation, or exasperation, even, we may find that, for all we’ve done already, or feel, we’ve done, already, it’s still … it’s still … it’s still … and, still … it’s not enough … not quite enough, still not enough, never enough, somehow, still … to afford us the full flourishing of this, our human meeting, encounter, and conversation that, somehow, we were yearning for, and hoping for, and dreaming of, as if something still were missing, and something more were still required, and something, still, and something, still, and something, still, and always, more; but what?

Well, life’s road is often so terribly bumpy, and life’s journey, perhaps, for many, long, and hard, what with all the knocks, and blows, and all the sharp words, unkind, and setbacks, cruel, and all the bitter disappointments, and shameful injustices, that we’ve had (so many) (so often) (to endure) along the way, and then that troubling, tortuous, complex, combination, of the physical, and the emotional, hurt, and suffering, staying sometimes so knotted, and strung up, so long, in our broken hearts, and minds, and bodies, exhausted – easily a lifetime, sometimes – that it all forms something like a shadow, and something like a scab, or crust, around us; and something, too, perhaps, a little like a rough, and ready, rather, and rather makeshift, and improvised, attempt, to be shielded, safe, and sound; except that all our walls, and all our defences, designed to keep things out, soon stop absolutely all and everything from getting in, including any human warmth, and affection, and love, and life, itself; such, then, that, this ambiguous, often bitter, cocktail, of life’s, experience, shaken, and stirred, then colours, shapes, limits, restricts, and dictates, even, our every action, and reaction; and does so, in such a way that, sometimes, we know not what, or why, we do, what we do, and we know not what, or why, we say, what we say, and we know not what, or why, we feel, what we feel, its sense, or meaning; and all this, reckoned together, reducing much of life – our human meetings, encounters, conversations, and actions – into a mightily confused, dense, despairing, misery.

(Is it not so?)

For these, our wounds, are wounds, so many (so many), and sound us, so often (so often), displeasingly, and discordant, and that dull, dreadfully, dull (so dull), too soon, our hearing, and our hearts, hopeless, and heavy (so heavy).

And of this, then; so what?, you say.
And of that, who cares?

(But let’s seek quietness, now, if we can; and listen … ).

(For with willingness to listen, comes so much to hear … ).

This sound; that sound.
My sound; your sound.

The sound of the other;
The wound of the other.

Sound of my mother; sound of my other.

Sound of mother; other …

Sound of my mother; my other.

Sound of my other’s mother, and others’ mothers;
Sound of my mother’s other, and mothers’ others.

Sound of the other; wound of the other.
Sound of the other; wound of the other.
Sound of the other; wound of the other.

The sound of the other.
The wound of the other.

This sound; that sound.
My sound; your sound.
Our sound; sounding; sound …

(Mother! Mother! Mother!)

(And, listening, now, let’s seek quietness, there, if we can).

My dear Mother …

“Be footloose and fancy free!”, you always advised me; do you remember?

(And, at least until today, I fear I’d almost forgotten that advice myself, or else I’d almost … myself … forgotten … ; one or other).

And I cannot help but wonder: was the extraordinary Ibn Battuta also somewhat footloose and fancy fee? A little, surely … for he was a singularly free spirit, a traveller, an adventurer, a wanderer, a vagabond, a lover, and a poet, and …

“I dreamed that I was on the wing of a huge bird”, he recounted, of his dream ” … and I was astonished … ”

And then:

“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller”.

So yes, being a free spirit, a traveller, an adventurer, a wanderer, a vagabond, a lover, a poet … and so on … and so often speechless, too, as a consequence … and (speechless) storyteller … in humble silence, then, surrendering, now, to the tale, the way, the story, the road, and, yes, so well … so well … so well … so well …

So well, so what?

So well, so what?

So well, so what?

… for do they not then travel, through the earth … ?

And, well … and what a question!

For yes indeed, they travel; and so many, indeed; but why, and to what good purpose?

For is travel not only the luxury of today’s idle, or work wearied, rich, jetting here, jetting there, and jetting everywhere, on one short, long, short, long, long holiday?

Or do we think of travel, rather, in terms, seemingly, of a flow, a constant flow, of great human migrations, in thousands, upon thousands, upon thousands, of people, moving from somewhere here, to somewhere there, upon this spacious earth, in migrations forced, or otherwise, in search of place, simply, and simply some modest, humble, place, from where to make a home and, from there, from home, to face, and meet us, heart, human, here?

Or is travel not really all, or above all, about trade, and doing business, and making money?

(And come on, let’s face it; we all know that it’s really money that makes the world go round in the first place, don’t we?)

So, what, then, really, does the word “travel” mean to us?

(Travel).

Elsewhere, Ibn Battuta advises his readers, “[T]o set out for pastures new, for life tastes sweeter when you’ve road worn feet; and no water that stagnates is fit to drink, for only that which flows is truly sweet … ”

I am reminded also of some words of St Augustine of Hippo, now modern-day Annaba, in Algeria, close to the border with Tunisia, when he writes that, “[T]he world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”.

It thrills me, somehow, to learn that the word in Arabic meaning “to travel” or “to move”, is “saiyr”, and the word, not a million miles away, meaning “planet”, is “sayyarah”.

Are we not then like planets, always circling our constellations, always moving, and in motion, as if in response to some divine imperative, such as “Travel!”, “Do travel!”, or “Tell them to travel!”

And the Prophet Muhammad advises us, “Travel in search of knowledge, even though the journey take you to China.”

And then, once in China, we may very well hear repeated, in the street, the popular Chinese expression that invites us to “Read 10,000 books, travel 10,000 miles”.

These days I do not much believe in coincidence, but still, let me observe that the examples above, and the direction of certain of these thoughts, seemed initially to come to my mind somewhat “coincidentally”, the process as if haphazard, and accidental, as I began to work out these thoughts in words, and to write them down; but in reality they came to mind – and to my mind, precisely – and came to mind me, too, perhaps, because I began to write this text while listening to some exquisitely beautiful Omani music, magnificent, at an Arabic language bookshop and cultural centre I’m gratefully acquainted with, named “l’Olivier”, and at a time, too, when a recent journey to Lebanon still remains vivid in my memory, and in my mind’s travelling thoughts, still very much questioning, this, to me, still somewhat unfamiliar world, the so‑called “Middle East”; and also because I have discovered, only very recently, and thanks to the wonderful Tim Mackintosh‑Smith, the extraordinary writings and world of the great 14th century globetrotter, Ibn Battuta, from Tangiers; and also, too, because I am dreaming now, one day, soon, of beginning a study of Arabic; and because I am dreaming now, one day, soon, of travelling more often, and more widely, in the Middle East, but not only there, of course, because, in my wish to lighten a little my heavy load of ignorance, I long, too, one day, to travel to China, and indeed, my thoughts, sent ahead, are often there already, already now.

And in such strange ways it’s somehow, almost, as if the world expands to accommodate our expanding minds, and grows large in proportion to the quality of the questions we address to and ask of it.

And so here, then, again, a question.

“Do they then not travel through the Earth, so that their minds gain wisdom?”

And could this, too, not be an excellent reason to travel?

I would think so, yes; and a profoundly important reason. For to meet a stranger well, we’ve seen already that it may not be quite enough to have a right attitude, and an observed duty of care; but rather, we may need also to show some deeper engagement with this stranger’s world, and some deeper understanding, such as to foster towards her, and him (ourselves), the beginnings of a genuine empathy, and a meaningful attempt to see the world, for at least a while, and at least a little, from their perspective, and from their own particular experience, and from their own particular language, and from their own particular culture, and from their own particular shared story, and from their own unique, particular (articulated clearly, or poorly articulated), universe, that may be, may very well be, and almost certainly is, indeed, so very different from our own, in certain respects, while in others, perhaps, surprisingly, and not so surprisingly, so very similar.

And all that to say that, if we are to learn to appreciate the sound of the other – and properly to hear, and to value, their sound – we may need at the same time to take seriously, and perhaps in some way even to treat, that other’s wound, or wounds; their individual hurts, for sure, but also, perhaps, their historical hurts, and traumas; and all their collected (sometimes collective) human suffering.

And again, a question.

“Do they then not travel through the Earth, so that their minds gain wisdom and their ears thus learn to hear?”

How, then, are we to learn to open our ears so as at last to hear and perhaps also to understand one another?

Well, we’ll do so perhaps by learning first, quite simply, to quieten our own thoughts; and by saying something a bit like this, maybe:

Leave it, my friend! Never mind that now! Forget it!

Just try to relax, that’s all – don’t worry, be happy; for it’s been a very long and sometimes arduous journey, and you deserve now a break, and a pause.

(My friend).

And do you need something to drink now? Or would you like perhaps to eat ?

Or do you wish to wash, and freshen up?

A change of clothes, perhaps?

Or do you simply want now and need now only to rest?

What is your need, and what your wish?

(What your wound, and where?)

(It’s here, I say, pointing to my chest; my bleeding heart).

For these, our wounds, are wounds, so many (so many), and sound us, so often (so often), displeasingly, and discordant, and that dull, dreadfully, dull (so dull), too soon, our hearing, and our hearts, hopeless, and heavy (so heavy).

(So let’s seek quietness, now, if we can; and listen … ).

(For with willingness to listen, comes much, to hear … ).

My friend, here … : drink a little water, rest, and relax …
Relax, and perhaps close, gently, close gently, the eyes …
And open, at the same time, the hands … the arms … the heart …
(Breathing calmly in, this gentle touch … ; and breathing calmly out, this gentle touch … )
(And breathing heart, in, this gentle touch … ; and breathing heart, out, this gentle touch … in ebb, and flow, time’s tides … thinking … touching … and gently … ever so gently … letting go …)
And, letting go …
And, letting go …
And, my friend, dear friend, old friend, just let yourself, sea, of self, tranquillity, float you off now, for a while, in any case, upon this, the gentle music, of these thoughts, and words …
And tracing, here, the ear, the heart, to hear.
And tracing, here, the ear, the heart, to hear, these words.
And tracing, here, the ear, the heart, to hear, these words,
I trace now gently, so very gently, in gentle, whispering, touch, upon your ear … and to trace there, here, the words, the ear, to hear, to hear, the heart … sound, sounding, soundness, of your softly hearing, listening, heart … and, listening … and, listening, softly … and listening, softly, still … to that sound, sounding, soundness … sea, of self, tranquillity … and all the wounds, as if, then, faced, and released, and feelings, feeling, also, faced, healed, relaxed, and released, a little, if only ever so little, in sound, sounding, soundness, sounded, out, in artful, attentive, hearing, listening, ear, of heart, in heart, heard now, and felt, and felt, too, in feelings, heard, and faced, and cleared, then, freed, then, and then, once more, and once again, then, and then again, once more, to hear.

( … listen … here … hear … ear … heart … art … healed … wound … sound … and sounding … still … )

This sound; that sound.
My sound; your sound.

Sound of the other; wound of the other.
Sound of the other; wound of the other.
Sound of the other; wound of the other.

The sound of the other.
The wound of the other.

This sound; that sound.
My sound; your sound.

(Mother).

(And tracing, here, the ear, the heart, to hear).

(And try with all your open heart only to listen to this sound, and to let yourself relax, fully relax, into being again touched by it, this human music; and to hear it, now, with the ear of your heart; and to heal, and be healed … )

(Words).

(Only words).

(Just words).

(And words, only words, just words, seeming, sometimes, somehow, so meaningless, nowadays, now; and nowadays, now, at other times, sometimes, seeming, somehow, so, so, so, so, full, full, full, just meaning, full).

(And isn’t it a little as if a word, chosen carefully, and chanted, chanting, enchanted, relaxed, in trance, opens, open, opening, hope, for you, a dream, a door, and a dream, a door, and a dream, a door, as if an entrance, to your heart, heard, hopefully, fully, and forgiven, freely, once more, to breathe, now, open, opened, openly, again, and again, and again, so human warm, now, coming, home, and well, and welcoming).

And know, then, too, that you’re not the only one; and that you’re not the only one, lonely, to feel this way; you’re not alone.

But still, as I look.
And as I look for you.
And as I look to you.
And as I look, to you, now … ; you are the only one.

And so hello there, my dear friend! How are you getting on? How have you been?
And yes, do please come in; you’re warmly welcome!
And indeed, I’ve missed you.

© Bede Nix, 17 July 2018. All rights reserved.

NIGHT

Sinking thoughts, fading, dimming, in the dusk, that blackens, into night,
Some peace, perhaps, at last, or perhaps, no more,
This fragile earth, spinning, revolving, orbiting,
In its own tremendous turbulence, turning, being.

During that dark journey, night,
Ears, straining, listening … for … a faint, distant echo,
Beating pulse slowed, energy earthed, shared source, survival,
A murmur, soothing, like soft words, a kindly mother,
Sweet breath, breathing, rising, and falling.

A clock ticks on but time has ceased, here,
In the beauty of deep silence, and solitude;
The ecstasy coming face to face with its one self, being
All that matters.

Enter then into the stillness of that which is unchanging
And yet always in motion and never the same.

Direct your eyes within, to be witness, one self, to one, who calls out,
Calling out, in the darkness, of the night.

© Bede Nix, 1992. All rights reserved.

 

BLOODLINES - SKETCHES TOWARDS A FAMILY

Growing up in England, in a small town near Oxford, “family” –those most familiar to me– meant my Mother, my Father, and my elder sister.

My parents loved to dance; they were always the first to take to the floor at one of the “balls” and local dances that they attended often when they themselves were young. I think that they were in their early ’20s when they first met. Compared to my father, my mother was an urbanite, almost a “city girl”. My father came from a local village, very much a “country lad”. He only spent time in “the town”, the small market town, where my mother lived, when he had to come into town for work, and perhaps sometimes also when he wished to serenade some of the local ladies.

My parents were both 25 when they married. And the energy of those early days somehow kept them together, if not always dancing, during a marriage of 55 years.

Sadly, dancing became increasingly difficult for my mother after she developed severe Rheumatoid Arthritis when in her late twenties. She also had to give up her work as a hairdresser, for the scissors now cut too often her swollen, awkward fingers. And one early memory of mine is of visiting my mother in hospital after she had undergone surgery on her feet. Being mum to my sister and to me was in any case by then a full‑time occupation.

My father worked as an electrician. And one of my earliest and fondest memories of him is of an afternoon on which he had invited me to visit a house in Oxford on which he was working at the time. As a child, I didn’t see a lot of my father, not even in the evening; he was usually out at work. And so it felt like a huge honour to be asked now to join him “at work”; I felt terribly proud and suddenly very grown up and important. But “the job” in Oxford was in fact a ruse. We turned a side street and walked along to where “the house” turned out to be the Oxford Odeon Cinema, where the film “Star Wars” had just opened. My father was taking me to the cinema! Being suddenly plunged into “a galaxy, far, far away”, albeit in the protective company of my father, was an experience so extraordinary to the younger me that I question if even now I’ve fully recovered from it.

My sister is six years my elder; my arrival on the family scene thus ended six years in which she was the sole focus of my parents’ attention and affections. And I think that she’s somehow never forgiven me for that. When young, she would give me an occasional “friendly” tickle, but my sense is that she was, if not disinterested, exactly, then certainly rather cool and distant. I had barely begun my school career when she was already evolving into her teenage self. And her mind was surely preoccupied with more pressing matters than her “kid brother”. And that’s entirely understandable.

Like me, my sister has an interest in the arts, only in her case it’s above all the visual arts. She is an excellent painter. And she also likes music, and to dance.

(The links to Peter Gabriel songs on this site are thanks in large part to her inspiration).

In every other respect we are like “chalk and cheese”, as we say in English; two very different personalities.

My parents were both able to mark, if not really to celebrate, their 80th birthdays. My father’s 80th birthday was last summer, 17 August 2013, but by then he was already very sick with cancer. He died early in November and was buried on 19 November, the day before my mother’s 80th birthday. My mother couldn’t continue long without her “beloved Geoff”, such that earlier this year she too passed away, 1 February 2014, just a few months after my father. Naturally my parents are still very much in my thoughts; perhaps more so now than ever before. Indeed, a few weeks ago, to my great astonishment, I saw a vision of them. I returned home late from work that day, and when I got back to the flat and turned on the light, there they were, standing together, smiling and with open arms, waiting for me. It was as if I’d somehow brought them back to life. And I suppose that this is how it is when you think a lot about someone, as in this case about my parents; your thoughts draw them near, and keep them alive in your heart.

As a personality, my mother was very intelligent and witty, very sharp; she had a fabulous sense of humour. But she was also very emotional and moody, unpredictable, volatile. By contrast, my father was solid, dependable, but at times too “safe”, too cautious, too anxious. Both were very strict in their approach to raising children, rather old‑school and old‑fashioned. But of course they loved us deeply, myself and my sister, and were very proud of us both.

It is said that in a romantic relationship usually it is opposites that attract. Jung described it as being almost a universal law. And this has certainly been my experience with my wife. She and I are like two opposing forces of nature, and it is quite impossible either fully to reconcile or else to separate us.

Perhaps in the fruit of such relationships, in our children, we receive–as in a mirror–a vision of how these characteristics may be when held either in tension or else blended together. Such certainly am I, a blown‑up, and now life‑size composite picture of my parents’ character flaws, with unfortunately but a few of their qualities, and even those qualities, as it seems to me, rather diluted, disappointingly.
I can see this process at play also in my 15‑year old daughter; she has some of her father’s dreamy absent‑mindedness and certainly also much of his charm. But for the most part what I see reflected in her is her own mother’s tremendous kindness and gentleness, not to mention also her mother’s great beauty (and pride!). She will break many hearts.

Last but certainly not least, let me say something about my young son, so very dear.

Several weeks after his birth a midwife visited his mother and concluded her visit by observing that she couldn’t see much evidence of the young chap developing into an “English gentleman”, like perhaps his father; but, rather, his behaviour and attitudes already demonstrated that, thanks to his Italian mother, he was an “Italian Mafioso” through and through!

Our son is now almost six years old (going on twenty‑six), completely confident, utterly self‑assured, fiercely independent, like mum, but also at times very quiet, withdrawn and thoughtful, more like dad.

Also like dad, and granddad too, for that matter, the young beau cannot help but love the ladies. Given his young age, we can laugh and think of his spontaneous adoration of the fairer sex as something natural, innocent, charming, and beautiful. Only later in life do we tend to render and experience such affections as ambiguous, and feel ourselves troubled by the powerful instinctive call to love. Already at ages two and three, and already often at four and five, it has astonished me to observe my son’s many and multiple loves. And here too, thanks to my son, my own self‑understanding feels a little more nuanced and perhaps also more forgiving, ever so little. I ask myself–and my wife–what advice we should eventually give to such a young Casanova so as to help him successfully negotiate a future. How should one love? How should one live? It seems to me that we do not have any adequate or satisfactory answers to even these most basic of human questions. What disappointing parents!

(My mother’s advice to me was always … to take life as what it is … and to love … okay … but not to get too carried away … don’t get too serious, she often said … love them and leave them! … love them … and leave … love … and leave … )

(As I work in one city and, at least theoretically, at the weekend, “live” with my family in another city, I feel often as if I do nothing but love, and leave, and love, and leave … ; perhaps I misunderstood my mother’s instructions).

To return to my son, I should like to note that, physically, friends and relatives have often remarked that he most resembles his mum, I think in part because of his deep brown eyes. But I see in him –and very, very much so– the boy that I once was, both physically and temperamentally. My love for him, as for his sister, has no words; it is like an ocean of feeling that flows out in all directions, utterly boundless.

Of course we love our children, my wife and I, for the simply extraordinary and unique human persons that they are, at least to us; and as individuals appearing to us, as parents, as little creatures almost miraculous in their very existence.

Being myself now also a father to a son, I feel that my relationship to and love for my son has also helped me better to understand my own father, and father/son relationship, and thus somehow also to grow closer to him, to my own father, and to love and to respect him more now than ever. And it seems to me that, in our various fates, we may at times hold and support and at times we may be held and supported. And so it was that, our roles at the last reversed, in the closing days of my father’s life I held him often in my arms, and with all my love flowing out to him for once without so much as a single mental obstacle or emotional hindrance, and cradled him, in my arms, my dear father, as once he cradled me, which is to say, in other words, to cradle him in my arms as if he were but a tiny newborn, a babe in arms.

Very occasionally my fiercely independent five‑year old son again assents to me holding him in this way, in my arms, cradling him as I did when he was a baby; and when he does, I am in heaven.

And so I think about the ways in which my love for my son flows naturally both from and back to my love for my father.

And when I think to the relationship of my son, to his mother, and of my daughter, to her mother, and of course to the complex relationship that I had with my own mother, who was in so many ways so witty, and wonderful, but at times also extremely fierce, and emotionally unpredictable and, from the pain of her arthritis, sometimes unreachable, and physically untouchable, I am left feeling astonished, even speechless, by the ways in which, to a fortunate child, raised in a love both tender and firm … a mother may be the very universe itself; she is the world both from and into which you were born.

Such reflections as these, as they arise, feel sometimes like a sensation of time itself, rippling across the spirit in flowing wave upon wave of so much family blood, so much life, so many layers of patterning, of physical and emotional similarities, and parallels, echoes, and resonances.

And in so many different ways do our broken hearts learn love.

© Bede Nix, 2013. All rights reserved.

THE VOICE OF BLOOD - EXTRACT

In the later months I would watch the leaves, first as they fell, weeping towards the ground, and then, wet and rotting, as they were trampled into the sodden vegetation, a vivid autumnal red, at least for a while, as they bubbled around the tree stumps, a crude, soupy liquid.  The trees, I thought, were bleeding:  the darkness coming again.

And the nakedness of the windswept trees was in such stark contrast to their earlier leafy abundance that it seemed slightly shocking, too different to be credible:  as if the trees had been forcibly stripped and violated, laid bare.  And shivering in the wind seemed to madden them, to make them wild, screaming out for revenge, so that they lashed out their branches in every direction, cutting, screaming, swirling around and around.  And I, too, felt the madness:  I ran with the wind, my head held back, my mouth open wide, gasping at the air.  And my eyes became wild:  I saw the winter.

But there are no words for the winter.  The trees are cold and exhausted.  And everything becomes so hard and lifeless:  frozen solid.  Nothing moves:  not really.  Just the silence.  And the silence moves with you, following you everywhere like a constant companion.  It seems to be watching, waiting:  itself a kind of warning, hushed, not to speak, not to disturb.  ‘Don’t speak, don’t think, don’t feel, don’t look, don’t move,’ it says.  Until you yourself, shocked, become frozen, stuck, sculpted into the scene.

And the earth seems to heap around you as you stand there, roots breaking out from your toes, forming foundations for your trunk as your human shape hardens slowly into the shape of a tree, your arms becoming branches, your fingers twigs, your skin crusting over into bark, your bones making way for solid wood and your blood slowing down, becoming thick and sticky like sap.

And then I realized that it exists, it is real:  the winter.  But that is not all:  there is always something else, something behind the winter, driving it harder and harder, something stronger and more powerful.  You can almost sense it in the air:  a fear made tangible, icy on the breath.

 

And in the solitude of the woods my mind went mad.

A little mad:  I’m sure of it.

 

But my games were glorious:

Always alone, I thought myself sometimes a lumberjack, out to chop wood, sometimes a hunter, setting traps for the hares and the rabbits, although there were none, of course, and sometimes I was a primitive, wild but free.

On other occasions I simply stood:  looking, listening, feeling.

And I stood still for minutes on end, as if I myself were a tree, frozen stiff in the winter.

Or frozen stiff with fear.

As was the case at least once that I can think of.

I was alone beneath the trees, thinking myself adventurous, fighting through the brambles and the nettles, the undergrowth.  But the skin of my hands and arms was soon a bright flaming red, hot with blisters and rashes, my legs likewise cut and torn.  I thought to cool myself in the water of the stream.

I headed for the stretch where the mud bank formed a low natural wall, easy to perch from, legs dangling, to wash or to chase with a net the tiny minnows darting around beneath the footbridge.

On the opposite bank was a tree which, although it looked precarious, must have been standing there for at least one hundred years or more.  It leaned over the stream like an old man bent double, attentive to the whispering words of the water flowing quietly beneath it, murmuring low in conversation.

I always felt that the tree was listening.

And what else had it overheard?

Or seen?

I wondered.

The wound of a sawn off branch, a woodpecker hole, these were the eyes …

Terrible things:  I was sure.

Scheming and betrayal.

Murder.

And I could feel the shivering skin:  the hurriedly buried dead …

And then I looked up …

How easy it must have been.

How easy to imagine the man, dangling down from the thickest of the branches – a corpse, rather, his neck caught tight in a noose, dropped a short distance on a rope, his head and body limp, the flesh as if slowly slipping away, leaving only the bones.

And so I did.

And there he was.

All the blood rushing from my head:  my eyes pale and lifeless.

Black, eyeless sockets:  two cavernous holes seizing hold of me, dragging me in, willing me to follow.

The dark sight of the blind.

Until at last he disappeared, fading away into nothingness.

I turned and fled:  running for my life.

With the eyes always behind me:  following.

I shot back a look …

But of course there was no one.

 

And one memory prompts another, I suppose.

And it must have been at around the same time.

A birthday party for one of the other boys from school …

I’m not sure why I was asked.  We weren’t friends.  Perhaps his mother had told him to invite me.  An act of kindness.

By the time I arrived at the house – I was just old enough to have been allowed out unsupervised – there were already many children there, mostly boys, one or two girls, all of us around the same age, eight, nine, ten, I forget.

Once through the door I was shuffled into the main room and given a cursory introduction.  I recognized only a couple of the faces.  The rest of the kids must have come from various social and sporting clubs that met after normal school hours.  For some reason I never attended any of these.  Maybe they were disallowed by my father.  Or simply didn’t interest me.

The children stood around awkwardly as if waiting instruction.  And sure enough it wasn’t long before the three or four representative parents started fussing around, stand here, stand there, do this, do that, barking orders, bossing:  as if the children were merely pawns in their excited nostalgic fantasy of a perfect childhood happiness.

But it transpired that the party had a theme.

No one had thought to tell me this.

Striped shirts, eye patches, fluffy toy parrots.

It was immediately obvious, but in my case too late, that we were to play at being pirates.

In class we’d been reading Treasure Island.

I should have guessed.

But as it was I was the only one not wearing appropriate clothing.  I was dressed in pale beige trousers, polished brown boots, and a green checked shirt which scratched me around the neck and arms.  I can remember very clearly what I was wearing that day as it was so utterly out of place.

And immediately I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed.

I thought to return home but hesitated too long.

My reflection in a glass window …

I felt ridiculous.

And waited for the children to start laughing.

But whether they did or not, whether they would or wouldn’t, didn’t matter.

In my head they were laughing already.  And there was nothing I could do to stop them.

 

But the first games were innocent enough.

We passed around an imaginary eye-glass, for example, chanting:  ‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with the letter … ‘

One of the parents then produced a real telescope:  a brass spy-glass dug up, no doubt, from the depths of an old junk box.  It helped us believe that the games were for real …

Then drinks were handed around:  small plastic beakers containing either root beer or blackcurrant cordial, noggins of rum …

And suddenly we were old sea dogs, drunk in a grog shop, singing:

‘Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest –

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!

Drink and the devil had done for the rest –

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!’

I don’t suppose that any of us knew what rum really was, but still.

 

We must have been making a lot of noise.

And one of the parents, to quieten us, stood up and whispered ssssssh …

Come nearer.

Come close.

Be a part of this conspiracy …

Listen.

‘Mates!’, she said, in a low, plotting voice:  ‘mates!’

‘Whatever you do …

Keep them open.

One of them, at least.

One of your good old weather-eyes.

Open them as wide as you can …

On the look out, of course:  the look out for a blind seafaring man, jagged teeth and scarred face, a parrot on his shoulder and a great thick crutch … ‘

And with a low theatrical bow, swinging her arm towards the door, she directed our eyes …

And sure enough …

There, looming large at the door, terrifyingly tall but also stocky, big boned, was the surreal apparition – out of place, out of time – of a pirate.  Black patches covered both his eyes and a long scar ran down the length of his face, as if cutting it in two.

He took a few swaggering steps into the room, then bellowed out:

‘Will any kind friend inform a poor blind man, a man, I might add, who has had the misfortune to lose the precious sight of both his eyes in the gracious defence of his native country, England – and God Bless King George! – where or in what part of this fair land he now finds himself?’

Struck dumb, not one of us ventured a word.  We stood like idiots:  staring in disbelief.

But even without the speech, delivered in a peculiar olde-worlde English and which I recognized immediately to have been cribbed directly, more or less, from Treasure Island, we were none of us sufficiently brave to speak up and to risk a word out of turn when faced with such a fearsome looking creature as was this man that stood before us.

After all:  we were all of us very young, very impressionable.

I was, at least.

Otherwise I’d have laughed.

Especially at the awkward conflation of blind man Pew, Black Dog and Long John Silver!

Was he a resting actor:  hired to entertain us?

I wonder.

But to his credit he must have spent some time on his appearance.

The fake cutlass scar, for example, was drawn from an inch above his right eye down across his cheek and nose to just above his upper lip.  It looked quite real, of course.  And must have taken ages to get just right.

A large gold ring hanged down from his left ear.  And a bright red bandanna was tied tightly around the top of his head beneath which his long hair was combed back and arranged in a tarry tail which swished about around his shoulders when he moved.  His sailor’s shirt was of broad blue and white stripes, similar in style to those worn by many of the boys.  And over this he wore a great black seaman’s coat, complete with enormous cuffs and bright silver buttons.  On his feet were gigantic leather boots which reached almost to his waist.  And despite the fact that both his legs seemed in good working order, he carried a long wooden crutch beneath his left arm, which occasionally he would lift into the air and wave at us menacingly.  But he never knocked anything down or hit anyone while he was hamming it up with his stick.  And only later did I realize that his eye patches, too, were fake, and that, for a blind man, he could see well enough.  He was, in short, very good at his job:  he was a real professional.

But still more extraordinary than the man himself, however, was the live green parrot sitting calmly on his shoulder.  The sight of it delighted us:  our eyes extra round and wide, like saucers.  Not once did it utter a sound, not even to cry ‘pieces of eight!  pieces of eight!’  But we didn’t mind.  Its presence convinced us more than anything else that standing here before us was a genuine old salt, a true gentleman of the sea.  As if the bird were the man’s silent witness:  the proof of his identity.

Once he’d finished milking the drama of his sudden and unexpected entrance, the pirate bored his way into the centre of the room and slumped down upon a stool.  All the children rushed around him, getting as close as they dared.  But I myself kept out of sight, right at the back behind the others, not so much because I was frightened of the man, although I was, but more because I still felt embarrassed by my clothes.

‘Now batten down your hatches awhile, me mates, and listen to my stories of deeds so wild and so dreadful, seas so deep and so dark, leading to places so unimaginably remote and hellish, that they’ll be sure to make you shiver and tremble from top to toe;  stories, in fact, that’ll make you wish you’d not stepped one foot, this day, outside the warmth of your cosy morning bed.

Listen … ‘

He cleared his throat.

This blustering preamble was followed by several more minutes of rambling words, only a few of which I now remember, before finally, in his strongest and most intimidating manner, the man announced to us that, from this moment on, he would take over as captain of our little pirate ship.  And either we would obey him strictly and without question, or take ourselves directly to the dogs, thus saving him the trouble of having to kick us there himself.

‘First things first!’, he said.

‘We must get ourselves a hostage.  A pirate ship is not a proper pirate ship, for sure, without a hostage or two at which to poke and prod … ‘

Perhaps the others had sensed my lack of concentration:  my discomfort.  Or perhaps I was picked on because I was already the odd one out.  The boy chosen as the hostage, in any case, was me:  obviously.

‘For days now we’ve been at sea’, or so explained the new captain of our imaginary ship.

‘The waters have been squalling rough and often we’ve been up to our necks in wash, but still, with the sails well trimmed, we’ve made good progress and the boat has steadily picked out its lonely path across the wide open sea.  The winds have been good to us.  And likewise it was easy work, upon finally spotting a solitary treasure ship, to sneak up to her, as it were, in the misty quiet of the gently moving morning, then jump her and massacre all aboard before making off with a glittering ship load of stolen booty.

What delight!’

‘But in a moment of weakness, good Christian that I am’, he continued, ‘I decided to spare one soul from among the vanquished – for a while, at least.  And I chose this young swab ‘ere as our captive.  A prettier, more rosy-cheeked specimen I’ve never seen!  It seems you second my choice …  Am I right?’

‘Hoorah!’

‘Hoorah!’

The crew approved wholeheartedly …

Then the captain took up his story from where he’d stopped.

‘But now our ship’s in murky water’, he explained.  ‘We’re barely ghosting along the sea’s surface.  And the wind has almost entirely died and us soon to follow it, I shouldn’t wonder!’

A hushed silence.

‘And there are those on board – and who’s to say they’re wrong? – who believe that the ship has picked up a curse along its watery way, a curse in the shapely little form of this ‘ere boy, do you see?  And that’s why the ship’s in the doldrums, or so they say …

Now I might look a little bristly on the surface, and it’s true my tongue sounds sharp from time to time, but at heart you must know that I’m just a kind and gentle man, a good honest Christian, that’s me.  But these others – goodness nothing! – these others are really rough, I reckon (and after all these years at sea, trust me, I should know).  So rough they are, in fact, that they’ll do anything that suits them, whether I’m there to stay their hands or not, no difference, they’ll do just whatever they like – and not a second thought, mind you, not one.

Anyway:  these chaps reckon that unless our little lad here is tipped overboard, toppled out into the water, a little silvery splash in the moonlight, as it were, they’ll be no escaping from these damnable soupy waters and an end to us all, for sure!  Of course I’ve given it some thought:  weighed up the situation, this way and that.  And between you and me, I’ve half a mind to agree with them – they’ve got some good points, I reckon.  I mean, we was floating along so swimmingly until this little barrel of laughs dropped by to anchor us down, as it were, to the bottom of the sea.  Don’t you think?  That’s just a feeling, of course – and take no notice.  Grave matters such as these must be decided right and proper.  So we’ll put it to a vote …

And what says you, lads?

Is he to stay, to sink, or to swim?

And mind you tell me clearly now … ‘

I kept my arms at my sides.

But the vote was otherwise unanimous.

And a few moments later the crew had already pinioned me to the floor and were in the process of tying my wrists and ankles with cord (helpfully provided by one of the parents, now smiling, sadistically, against a far wall).  A smaller group was busy rolling up squares of cloth – one of these they used to gag me while another served as a blindfold.  The children needed little by way of encouragement.

And then they started chanting.

‘Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!’

They were having a wonderful time:  the best party they’d ever attended.

They didn’t seem to notice my discomfort:  it didn’t trouble them, if they did.

Nor the parents, apparently, who contented themselves with remaining as shadows in the background, the children permitted to do as they wished.

Did they think that I too was acting?

The poor, defenceless hostage …

Locked behind a façade.

‘Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!’

Desperate to get away, I could feel the fear, restless, in the pit of my stomach.

But how?

It seemed impossible:  my wrists and ankles were firmly fastened, my eyes blinded, my tongue tied.

‘Well, that’s that then:  your destiny’s clear, young chap, and that it is!’ exclaimed the captain.

‘The ugly lubber must walk the plank – and won’t he look pretty dropping down to the depths? – ha!  to hell with him … !

But wait!’

The captain stopped, looked around, perhaps seemed puzzled for a second, then brightened with an idea.

‘Wait’, he said again.

‘Why don’t we have ourselves some fun and first tickle him a bit?  Tickle him a tad with the prospect of a little light death …  It can’t do no harm, surely.  And it’d be mighty amusing.  So what says you, mates?’

Another roar of encouragement.

‘Hoorah!  Hoorah!’

‘I know:  we’ll pluck out his eyes and give him dead lights, two empty black points like holes in the head, all the more clearly to see the sight of death – do you agree, my hearties?’

And so it went on – so many voices – all laughing and screaming and jeering and mocking.

The children began to spin me around.

And then I heard the captain saying to put me to sleep …

They were going to gouge out my eyes, he explained, then throw them out in front of me to guide my way towards the water …

I felt dizzy, sick.

Although I could also hear a little voice at the back of my mind, saying:  everything will be all right;  it’s just a game;  keep calm;  don’t worry …

But then, in all the noise and the clamour, I lost it …

Spinning around and around:  around and around and around.

Going on and on …

Will it ever stop?

Will it ever stop?

And I ask myself.

Again and again.

Going on and on.

These voices …

‘Now then, lads, the deed is done and we can wake him – slowly, mind you, very slowly, take care for the blood!’

And my body stopped spinning, but not my head, which continued of its own accord, spiralling away from my neck …

‘All crew to posts and a double helping of rum for they who’s quickest!’, barked out the captain.

‘You there, hoist up the Jolly Roger!

You lot prepare the plank …

And the rest of you gather around …

Gather around to feast your eyes upon a boy’s last moments …

Look sharp!’

‘Ay, ay, sir!’

‘Ay, ay, cap’n!’

‘Now look you here’, the captain continued.

‘This chap’s like me, a good Christian fellow, I reckon, and he’s a gentleman to boot I wouldn’t wonder – just look at his fine clothes!  The least we can do is grant him a few final words, no?’

And so saying, he loosened my gag to let me speak.

But I’d nothing to say:  I just stood there, like a fool, cut off by my silence.

‘What?!’, roared the captain, ‘is that a dead eye on your shoulders, or what?  Where’s your voice, boy?  Now speak up good and proper I tell you!  Or else there’ll be trouble, d’you hear?’

But still I said nothing:  I couldn’t speak.

‘Here’s a queer one if ever there was.

It seems he needs his eyes to find his tongue, so his eyes he shall have, you mark my words – his left eye in his left hand and his right eye in his right – there you go!’

A small, roundish object, neither exactly soft nor hard, was then placed in each of my hands.

‘These are your eyes, my friend … ‘, jeered the captain.

‘I trust that now you’ll see everything:  is everything clear?’

He chuckled in a low, bass voice.

The children, too, were in hysterics.  And still now I hear the sound of their laughing.

‘What’s that?  Still can’t see, eh?  Well in that case try squeezing them, squeeze them tighter and tighter, go on … ‘

At this the captain took my hands in his and clenched them up until they were as tight as two small, hard balls.

And I wonder even now at his maliciousness.

But no one stopped him:  I heard no objections raised.

My hands hurt terribly.

But it was the sensation of jelly oozing vile through my fingers that most disturbed me.  That and the sound of the children squealing at the sight of what they believed to be blood:  blood dripping from my hands, my fingers …

‘These are your eyes!  These are your eyes!’ cried out the captain, weirdly jubilant.  ‘And now you’re as blind as I am! Ha!’

I listened to his words and understood what he said.

But at the same time I thought that he was wrong and that somehow I could still see my eyes.

They were there:  before me.

Terrifying in the darkness.

Looking out …

And as if I could see them there …

No longer in my hands.

No.

But rather suspended:  suspended in the air as if hovering, weightless – staring out like two sharp points of light in the darkness.

Blind, yes.

But staring out:  still staring out and seeing all.

But what I actually held in my hands, of course, known only, at first, to the adults in the group, were two tomatoes, rotten and smelly – their juicy insides and red, glossy pulp making the children scream, who seemed to believe what they saw, my sight as if extinguished before their eyes.

But I wasn’t sure.

And I didn’t know what was going on.

And for a while I thought that perhaps I was blind.

As if they really were my eyes.

My bloody, torn out eyes.

These eyes now to haunt me forever …

‘Do you hear my voice?’, cried out the captain, standing behind me now, some distance away.

Yes.  I hear you.  But in the darkness a voice sounds only in the mind.

‘Do you hear my voice?  Do you hear it?’, he repeated.

‘Or should I say:  do you see my voice?’

Hilarious, isn’t it?

‘Yes, yes, but don’t laugh, my shipmates … ‘, he went on.

‘It’s not quite as crazy as it sounds …

You see, it’s like this:  a blind man like me comes eventually to see voices as much as to hear them.  The voice becomes visual, takes form, a shape, a spectral shape vibrating in the centre of the mind.  And once that happens:  it’s really the end.  From then on they follow you everywhere:  these voices.  They’re like spirits.  Spirits:  have pity … ‘

And I could feel myself shivering.

‘But enough!  It’s time now, mates!  Are you ready?  Draw out your blades and we’ll prick this blind young worm, prick him good and proper, that we will!’

And the children returned to their chanting:

‘Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!’

When suddenly, the gag having now slipped down around my throat, I found my voice …

And I screamed out:  ‘You can’t make me – you can’t make me do it!  Not against my will … I shan’t die!  I shan’t!’

The captain and his crew merely laughed all the louder.

Until my wrists and ankles were at last untied and with one great shove I was thrown out into the garden, with all the other children tumbling on top of me, one after the other.

And that was that.

I was thrown overboard.

Drowned.

Dead.

 

Being at the bottom of a great pile of bodies I was, of course, the last to clamber up onto my elbows and to begin to brush myself down.  My blindfold had worked loose in the scrum and it seemed that I could see all right, to my relief.  I sat on the grass in a daze and watched as all the other children rushed indoors:  it was time to eat.  But instead of following them I simply picked myself up, walked around the edge of the house, and then passed out into the street.  A few yards from the house I broke into a run.  And then I kept on running.  I ran and I ran and I ran.  Until finally I felt certain I was alone:  that no one would find me.  Although at the party I’d not be missed:  I felt sure.  As if I were invisible.  Out of sight:  out of mind.

Eventually I slowed down to a walk and decided to head off for the woods.  I wanted to cry but I didn’t.  I couldn’t.  My eyes remained resolutely dry.  Open wide.  Staring.  Looking out at me wherever I turned, no matter what my direction.  Watching me.  As if there were eyes everywhere.  All eyes upon me:  no matter where I looked.  And insistent.  Demanding.  Everywhere.  My eyes.

And every few steps I would touch them with my fingers, wondering if they were indeed still there.  And again and again I ran my finger around their rims;  then pressed hard, hard upon the eyeballs, measuring in increments the gradual deepening of my pain.  And wondering whose eyes these really were:  were they really mine?  Or had mine been torn out?  Torn out, after all?  And then replaced.  To look out anew.  And everything seeming so strange.  So different.  As if the eyes alone had changed everything.

Who knows?

But I couldn’t stop myself:  I just kept on thinking about them.

The feel of them:  the look of them.

And I wondered what it would feel like to be behind the eye.  And to touch myself there.  To feel.  To know.  And then I imagined being behind them.  Looking back.  As if to see them from the other side, as it were.  And to see myself there.  To see myself upon the back wall of my own eye, as in a mirror.  And then to look out at my seeing self.  To see.  To know that I was there.

And I thought to myself that really I wanted to be blind:  to be blind, in fact, was really what I wanted.  So that then I’d know.  I’d know not to look back.  Or even if I did, even if I did look back, I’d know it wouldn’t matter.  I’d know it wouldn’t change anything.  The looking:  the looking back.  Looking:  lost.  And the darkness would remain.  And I’d be blinded, yes.  But still I’d carry on:  I’m sure.  Going on and on.  Going on and on forever.

And I wanted to cut them out, then and there.  By my own hand.  My eyes.  As if in punishment.  The looking.  Lost.

And I wanted to hold them in my hands and squeeze them and squeeze them and squeeze them until my hands were covered in their gore, my fingers dripping wet with my own blind blood.

I headed for the edge of the stream and then sat down upon its bank.

From a side pocket in my trousers I drew out a small Swiss army knife.

I’d recently stolen this knife:  I saw it and I knew that I had to have it and so I stole it.  Simple.  This wasn’t the first time that I’d stolen something, nor the last.  But I didn’t care.  Anyway:  I didn’t steal just any old thing, like some kids do, for the thrill of it.  I stole only the things that I really desired, the things that I felt that I really needed or wanted.  Nothing was given to me so if I did want something I had no other choice but to take it for myself, I had to steal it.  And steal it I did.  It was easy.  In any case, no one takes notice of you when you’re a child.  No one took notice of me, for example:  nobody paid me attention.  Children are invisible:  it’s as if no one sees you when you’re a child.  And I’m sure that no one saw me:  not really.

Children get away with murder.

(I’d heard someone say it).

I thought so too.

Murder.

 

Anyway.

This knife I soon thought of as my most prized possession.  It went with me everywhere.  And, whenever I could, I crept off in search of somewhere private where, pulling out all the different blades, the principal blade last of all, I could examine and clean them, test their sharpness on twigs and bark, keeping them glinting, bright, before again replacing them, thoughtfully, a little proud, one after another, snapping them shut.  I spent hours cutting up fruit.  An apple or a pear, for example, I would slowly peel, absorbed in concentration, into long, meandering spirals of skin, pleased at the ease with which a sharp blade cuts.  But I was happiest when I had some small animals to dissect:  sometimes I made use of some fish or a dead mouse and on at least one occasion, a dead bird, covered in fleas and maggots.  I cut these animals to pieces, hoping to rearrange them in some mysterious way so that they would come back to life, with luck, so that they would once more live …  But, although I liked to do it, although I liked the process of cutting things up into ever smaller and smaller pieces, it also made me feel at the same time very sad – as if this miserable, mutilated end were in some sense the inevitable conclusion to each and every life.  And that there was no hope:  there was nothing that could be done.

Cutting:  cutting …

The knife would have been confiscated, of course, if my parents or any of the teachers had seen it.  And then the same old questions …

Why do you this?

And why do you do that?

Why this?

Why that?

Why?

Why?

Why?

But I kept it secret, well hidden.

I looked at it now.  How beautiful it seemed.  Simple.  Clean.  And I pulled out the main blade with my fingernails and moved it around until it caught the little sun still sweating its weary way through the leafy canopy overhead.  And then I flashed the light back up into the sky and wondered if it might perhaps be possible to blind the sun in its own reflection.  And I loved the way that the silver blade sparkled like the twinkling surface of the water of the stream.  It was like a dance.

And reclining in the apparent loss of time, that sweet state of calm, I simply sat there for a while, a warm daze, watching the play of light as it leapt from place to place.

It’s such a pleasant thing for the eyes to behold the sun and truly the light is sweet …

And then I slept, a deep, dreamless sleep, for a change:  quiet like the passing of the hours.

Until gently, opening my eyes, slowly, I dragged myself up and looked again at my knife, still clutched there in my hand.

The silver blade was dull now but if I moved it a little it sparkled once more.

And it felt so nice to touch it.

And slowly, very slowly, I moved the silver metal of the blade along the contours of my fingers, up and down, up and down.  And I watched, transfixed, as the sharp point first appeared and then disappeared behind my hand.  The blade felt so cool and sensual to the touch, exciting in a way.  So that I unbuttoned the cuffs of my shirt sleeves then rolled them tightly to my elbows, exposing more of my skin.  The touch of the knife over the soft hair of my arms was delicious.  And now that my lower arms were bare, I could run it swiftly, with a quick switch of hands in the middle, from the elbow of my left arm to the elbow of my right and back again in one great arc.  I concentrated hard on making this movement flow.  Like the arc of a circle.  Up and down.  Up and down.

Then after a while I moved the knife to my face, pressing its broad, flat surface against my right cheek.  It felt so good.  Like a cool breeze.  Or a caress, perhaps.  Slowly, so slowly.  And I drew the knife down my cheek and under my chin and then up to my left eye and across my forehead, as if removing my face, cutting it out.  And then I skirted the point of the blade around the oval of my eyes.  First the right eye:  then the left.  The right, the left.  And again and again and again until finally I could see nothing but a blur of silver light criss-crossing before my eyes in a figure of eight.

‘I will cut out my eyes!’ I said to myself

‘I will cut out my eyes!’

I said.

Over and over again.

Like a chant.

‘I will cut out my eyes!’

And then I looked up.

I was crying now.

And I thought I couldn’t bear it.

This feeling of pain.

Going on and on.

I wanted it to stop.

That’s all.

And so I started scratching at my arms.

Scratching, slashing.

Then slowly, always slowly, I slid the knife along the back of my left hand, from a little below the wrist to the nail of the forefinger.

And my eyes opened.

I could feel it.

The pain.

At last …

The joy.

And I was crying.

Crying, laughing.

At last!

At last!

And I was crying.

Strange, but …

Smiling.

Like a weeping wound.

The sound of my laughter …

And I sat there and watched as my tears and my blood mingled together, dripping down towards the stream, my eyes at the same time turning red against their shadowy reflection, two swirling pools in the water.  And I sat staring, still like the summer air, trying hard to understand, but failing.  I tried to look up:  to raise my head.  And watched as a pair of watery eyes floated away with the current.

And still I looked.  I kept on looking and looking.  And I didn’t want it to stop.  Not ever.  But what I wanted, instead, was just for it to go on and on.  This moment.  With the stream flowing quietly past.  My thoughts floating away with the water.  My eyes …  And the smell of the ferns and the trees.  And the sounds of the birds singing high up in the branches above me:  the woodland animals surrounding me.  And the fading light.  Gentle.  Forgiving.  The day imperceptibly giving way, at last, to night.

I began to feel faint.

And it was a while before I felt strong enough to get up from the ground.  At first I just leaned against a tree and wrapped a handkerchief around my bleeding hand.  I tried to brush the dirt from my trousers but with little success.  And with my arm I wiped my face.  And to begin with I turned my back towards the sun, and then slowly I began to walk away, snubbing it, back towards the direction from which I’d come.  But my shadow grew nervous and jerky, appearing to pull away from me as I walked:  and my eyes grew tired as I watched its neurotic dancing, leaping around on the ground.  I stopped and looked back.  Nothing.  Just the heavy darkness dripping slowly down:  the night gradually forming from the day.  And I walked now towards the sunset.  And I felt so pale.  But also sure:  sure to walk forever … the light, receding, like … like a memory.  A memory of childhood, perhaps.  A memory of a home that never was …

And the evening, sweating, seemed more humid than the day had been.  And my head felt heavy as I walked, waiting, listening out, the thunder and the lightning.  But I’d stopped thinking, at least.  Idly, I mean.  I couldn’t think:  not really.  I was just walking.  One foot before the other.  Still going on.  Going on and on.  And over the stream.  And then out of the woods:  beyond the grass and the flowers and the trees.  And then out, at last, into the hard and real.

To the place where I lived.

‘Home’.

Was that it?

And it was a place where the sky seemed no longer clear and blue, as it had been, for a while, earlier in the day, but like the night into which I walked, grey and ragged with the smoky hopes of humankind.  And a place where the air seemed thick with the bragging roar of souped-up cars and with the noise of screaming, brawling children, coming out to play with the darkness.

And where am I now?

They ask me …

I am not sure:  I am not told.

‘D’you wan’ a fight?

D’you wan’ a fight then?

I’ll fuckin’ give you a fight.

I’ll fuckin’ … ‘

Yes.

This bloody life.

Bring your knives!

And come out to play, my children …

Why not?

Why ever not?

And the homes here are made from ashy breeze-blocks:  the windows smashed then boarded up.

And the streets are from tarmacadam.

Fuck:  this hurts.

Fuck:  this really hurts.

Fuck.

© Bede Nix, 2004. Not for publication or quotation without permission. All rights reserved.

 

THE VOICE OF BLOOD

‘Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror’.
Rainer Maria Rilke

‘I throw this ended shadow from me, manshape ineluctable, call it back.
Endless, would it be mine, form of my form?
Who watches me here?
Who ever anywhere will read these written words?
Signs on a white field …’
James Joyce

‘For you.
For someone or something I’d recognize.
A person, a moment.
A sign you were there.
Or had been;  or were going to be, soon.’
Robert Lax

—–

Once more the blood …

And I found all this stuff, all these papers, all these old notes and jottings, along with your letters.

I wrote to you too:  I wrote to you too, do you remember?

And these are my words …

Or these were my words.

I forget.

And I say to you:  read each one very carefully, each word, each sentence, think about them for a second or two, don’t rush but take your time.

To share.

Share …

A portion that a person receives from or gives to a common account.
A part contributed by an individual to an enterprise or commitment.
A part received from an individual from this.
Have a share.
Be a sharer.

And shall I share with you?
Have I something to share?
I wonder.

And yet …

To love …

To love is to hurt.

Oneself.

Others.

There is no beauty without the wound.

Or so they say.

And to love one must first feel the hurt, the hunger.

The absence, the loss …

Isn’t that right?

So do I dare?

Do I dare?

Go on …

Yes.

I love you.

I am blind with love for you.

And yet still I look back.

I see.

And at the same time I see nothing.

I see …

And I do not see.

As if I’m blind with looking.

With looking:  with love.

My love.

 

Imagine …

 

My eye is bleeding.

Look left.

Look right.

Up.

Down.

The blood.

I feel it.

Once more the blood.

And suddenly the voices, too, are near:  they recede as quickly, dying quietly away.  Now loud, then soft.  Here it’s like a chamber of echoes:  cold and dark.  I cannot escape them:  these voices.

I am still:  completely still.  Although I’d like to move.  I’d like, in particular, to move my arms:  to draw them in close, myself.  And my hands.  My hands I’d like to move much nearer, much, much nearer, before my eyes, perhaps, or even touching:  my face.  I’d like that, I know.  But I can’t:  it’s impossible now.

Once more the blood.

This phrase still sticks, in my mind, as I think of you.  I’m not sure where it’s from or what it means.  It just seems to bubble up, as if from nowhere, breaking through to the surface of my thinking like a lingering dream, as bold as you please.  Again I’m surprised, caught unawares:  I draw my breath.  I look.  I listen.  And the words are so lush that at times I seem to feel them as images:  mesmerizing images, glorious in red, growing large in my eyes, awash with blood, dazzling.  So that now it’s how I see you:  you above all.  You, like me.  And I think to myself:  it’s blood, it’s only blood.  As if it’s all that we are, you and I:  blood, flowing blood.  Finally.  And each time it’s the same:  the same whenever I look back.  The blood:  do you remember?  I look back and everything is red:  bleeding.  I close my eyes:  it’s how I see.

‘Keep going’, I told you.  ‘Keep going’.

‘Keep going’, you said then as well, repeating me, as if saying it for the first time, something new, your sole response.

But how?

And why?

I try to remain calm.  It’s an exercise in mental control, an attempt to lull the mind’s eye into oblivion, finally.  And the opposite of what previously I’d thought:  let go, let go.  Don’t follow.

A succession of pictures processing back through the past, a painting in image:  to this I’m now reduced.  And I watch as these images pass by me, silent and sombre, stills from a dead life.  Happy days, they were.  Happy days:  the past.

Like laughter.

Were they?

Just a breath or a touch of the hand was sometimes enough, I remember, a naked smile, a kiss.

And then the changing of the seasons:  the bright light of the mornings in spring, the warm summer sun, the fall of leaves in the autumn, the sound of snow in winter.  Childish laughter, running free.  And your voice, like water.  A song.

Until the fog descends upon me once again, smothering me in its embrace like a mother her child, coming then too close, the darkness, suffocating, leaving me crying in its arms.

And I listen as still I breathe:  breathing in, breathing out.  And the sound of my breath, to my ears, takes on the pulse of a quiet drumming, uneven, broken, an echo of a heart like a soft whispering from far within, seeming so faint and so distant and yet still as if forever.

And my eyes begin to smart and water and my head feels heavy:  blurred and bleary I seem now, vague and ethereal, as if haloed in smoke.  And I think:  my body must be fire, my body must be fire.  The rhythm is wonderful:  the ritual repetition of my words delicious.

And then the voices speak:  ‘I am going away’, they say, ‘I am going away’.

And my eye is bleeding.

Look left.

Look right.

Up.

Down.

The blood.

I feel it.

Once more the blood.

And at last I am lost.

 

And it seems so long now since I last shared human company.

To speak.

To feel.

To touch.

When was the last time?

Do you remember?

It’s been a while, certainly:  a few days, a week, perhaps, a month.

Maybe it was the man in the takeaway who didn’t understand me when I tried to place an order.  His fingernails were dirty and his hair looked greasy.  He looked as tired as I did.  Sweating away.  Working.

Fast food friends.

He handed me my meal in a white plastic bag.  And back in my room, when I took it from its plastic bag, I ate it from a plastic dish.  It was a plastic dish that could be placed in a microwave for reheating.

I ate it with a plastic knife and a plastic fork.

(And I thought to myself:  this meal will last forever …)

And it was perhaps inevitable that the food itself tasted plastic.  But still I’d hoped for something better.

And as I ate I wondered:  when did I last eat food prepared by hands I’d recognize?  A meal prepared by my own hands, for example?  Slowly, with patience?  Or by the hands of someone who is dear to me?  By the hands of someone that I know or by the hands, at least, of someone that I’ve seen with my own eyes, that I’ve at least set my eyes upon?  You know:  a meal prepared exclusively for me – with care, with love … ?

It’s all seems so unclear:  so pointless, perhaps.

Life, I mean:  life.

The contact, reaching out …

And for once I can’t remember.

And you:  do you remember?

 

 

But I was scared of wasting time:  every moment seemed precious and so easily lost.

So I didn’t bother much with myself:  taking time out properly to eat, to look after myself, relax, rest, sleep – no, not really.

 

 

And …

‘Every book is a postponed suicide’.

 

 

Who said that?

A voice.

 

Was it Cioran?

 

I forget.

 

But I wanted so badly to write.

You must try to understand this.

It was all I could ever think of.

Just to write – a few words, at least …

And yet writing meant waiting.

And what can you do when you’re waiting?  How to pass the time?

 

And I ask you:  am I forbidden to see?

 

I hear nothing by way of answer.

There is no response.

Only silence.

 

Imagine.

 

It was as if the sighs of death encircled me.

The sorrows of hell surrounded me.

And in my tribulation I cried out.

 

Once more the blood.

 

And I got into the habit of waking early:  a little before dawn.  I tried to write but when I couldn’t, which was often, I paced around without purpose, tried to sleep when my sleep was already broken, or else went for long solitary walks in the dwindling darkness of the night.

Occasionally, scrutinizing hard their faces, looking for some sign, some signal, I’d blindly pass someone, peering at their shape in the small, shrivelled hours, wondering how the night was affecting them, thinking:  is it the same for them, or different?

They never spoke, these others:  not once.

The silence, still then, was never broken.

And in any case it was only rarely that I saw another.

As if the night I shared with no one.

Although for company and for courage it’s true I sometimes spoke aloud:  articulating my thoughts as I roamed about in them, hearing them, lingering in the air, listening to them as if to the words of another, or else my own words heard again, unexpectedly, in echo.  So from the night I learnt the sound of my language but not its meaning:  its meaning escaped me.  Until at last I’d grow scared and turn back.  Although the light always comes when you least expect it.  It’s in the darkest part of the night:  gathering in the distance.

 

The voices.

 

But it seems to me now as if I’ve scarcely lived.

I tell you:  listen …

All things are full of labour:  man cannot utter it.

The eye is not satisfied with seeing:  nor the ear filled with hearing.

And in the small hours before the morning I tried to write.

A discipline which of course left me little energy for the rest of the day.

And I was generally tired and lethargic.

For a while I’d been a student.

But I was a bad student.

‘Highly unpromising’ as one tutor had so succinctly put it.

I wanted answers but instead was offered career paths:  number crunching;  law bending;  middle management;  higher management;  fucking over the poor and underprivileged;  arsing around on television;  tosspot academic excellence;  wine and greasy pole studies …  At one stage or another all of these options were trundled out for my inspection:  dumb, anodyne looking beauties in a surrealist fashion parade, a job fair of such tremendous pomp and splendour it made me sick.

I preferred to drink.  It amounted to the same thing but tasted better, if only marginally.  Pissing against the wall.  A whole bloody country down the drain …

Got to get on!  Got to get on!

Tough luck:  you cunt!

Cutting;  how cutting …

 

And my blood:  this is my blood.

(Take it:  drink it).

And my body:  this is my body …

Cutting.

Cutting.

What oblivion!

 

A rather average degree in “European Critical Thought” kept my field of expertise rather narrowly focused:  dissatisfaction.  But consultancy positions (for highly skilled professionals) were, in this area, at least, notoriously difficult to come by.

So I took to doing odd jobs, travelling here and there, doing this, doing that.

At first I worked in a supermarket, stacking shelves.  In a factory after that.  Then in a hospital as a porter.  Then a driver.  Then I drifted into the larger cities.  Anonymous office jobs.  Answering phone calls.  Buying.  Selling.  Some learning:  some teaching …  Until at last I slipped out of the country to carry on my wandering elsewhere.  Years and years of grinding poverty.  Getting by.  A little money here.  A little there.  Occasionally enough to buy a book.  A pair of shoes.  A drink.  Now and then the time to think.  A new experience.  But for what?  What has any of it ever amounted to?  I thought that I’d hear great stories:  experience great things.  Or else that I’d live these stories for myself:  and only afterwards set them down in print.  I thought that I’d somehow be a writer.  A dream …

Surely.

And a dream from which I’ve never woken up.

Not yet.

Not now.

Not ever.

 

But I stir, I shift, I move, I turn …

 

Awake!

Awake!

And I shall enter, I shall enter!  I shall, I shall!  I shall enter – yes!  And gates of the dark world:  open!  Open up at once!  I say.  This is the path –  my path:  I shall follow it to wherever it takes me.  And so I must:  I must go on …  Going down into that dark world, as if it’s written in the heavens above:  you must go down, down and down and down and down …  Into a black pit.  An infinite black pit, deep, resonating like a voice from within you, lost to itself:  speaking, like a poet.  And going on and on:  this voice.  Slowly.  Slowly.  It seems so gentle and so delicate, from a distance, reaching out towards you with the foggy familiarity of memory:  beguiling, like a song, encouraging nearness, an enticing, seductive sound.  And do you hear it?  No, never?  So why not listen?  And enter, enter in …  I shall!

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!

These voices deafen me.

They chatter incessantly within me, biting at me like thousands of tiny, sharp teeth, guardians at the entrance to a blackened cave, denying me its admittance, its maddened mouth ringed with slicing blades, cutting like devils.

I snap at my tongue:  pray!

Prayers for the living and the dying:  say them all, one after another, continuously.

You will need them.

I know.

You will need them.

And keep open your eyes:  your eyes open.

That too:  I remember.

Then just trust to go on.

Going on.  Going on.

Your eyes open and wide, looking straight ahead and keeping them as focused as possible, your back erect, your hands and arms open and relaxed, falling loosely at your sides, and your head held high, breathing as calmly and as deeply as you can, under the circumstances, until at last you begin:  beginning slowly to remember, little by little, letting everything return.  Yes.  That’s right:  try to remember it all.  Slowly.  Slowly.  So much remembering.

And I think:  at times it’s as if I really do remember everything, like a great blessing or curse heaped down upon my shoulders, as if the fitful air were itself loaded down, heavy with memory, like time, appearing to pant beneath its weight.

And I think of the days of darkness:  for they shall be many.

And then I ask:  ‘What are you looking for?’

And:  ‘Is anybody there?’

‘You, for example …  Are you there?  Are you there?  Where are you, my love?  Where are you?  And do you dare to follow?’

There is no response.

But still the questions echo.

Where is she?

And where, for that matter, am I?

I feel so lost:  lost like a shadow in absolute darkness.

And it’s like waking into a terrible dream:  a dream which remains vivid even when sleep itself has ended.

The solitude:  this awful solitude.

And it’s like a fear blown up to form a tangible, crooked shape, flickering at the edge of my field of vision:  like a dark, dripping colour, a shadow, stained upon the eye.

And I wonder:  am I, too, to suffer a thousand pangs?

My hell lies within me like a wilderness:  the inner landscape a nightmare.  A nightmare in the deepest and the darkest depths of the heart.

Do you see it?

Do you see, my heart?

And understand?

Take courage!

Because I must keep going, my love:  somehow, to love.

And going on and on.

Screaming:  NO!

But I shall enter, I shall enter!  I shall knock and knock and knock!  And I shall enter!  I shall, I shall!  Enter!  Enter in …  I shall!

 

But listen.

I’m like a sleepwalker clambering blind across the uppermost surfaces of the mind:  a miniature dreamer, entering by the ear or the mouth, wandering freely, perhaps too freely, by far, in thought.

 

And the eyes are open and yet still he sleeps.

He sees nothing, then.

 

No:  nothing.

He’s blind.

And you mustn’t wake him.

Do you understand?

He’ll go mad if you do that.

He’ll go mad if you wake him …

 

And I pause for breath:  I’m panting.

 

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!

A thousand noes …  So many voices!

But …

They are meaningless, surely:  even pain must have its limits.

And …

I must try to suppress my fear, passing through it as though it doesn’t exist, deaf to its denials.  I must find courage:  the courage to go on.  And say I, say …

Cannot go on, go on …

Cannot.

Must!

It’s just a test:  you know it.  Simply one after another:  a test and a test and then another test.  Test after test.  Test after test after test.

And you are not a coward:  you are not to think it …

But …

Get out of my way!  Get out of my way!

Open up!  Open up!

And only then shall you enter, my love.  Only then …

You shall enter.

At last.

I shall.

I shall, I know it.

I shall enter, I shall enter!  I must, I must!  Let me in, let me in, let me in!

 

But can I?

Can I enter?

And can I enter alive?

And alone?

I am, after all …

Alone.

Am I not, gentle reader … ?

Am I not?

Alone.

Yes:  yes I think it must be so.

And yet:  do you follow?

 

Yes, but …

I think it’s too late:  I think that already it’s too late.

And you see:  I’m much alone.

And too much alone, in fact.  As if marked by all this time:  stained, ruined.  Cut off and now adrift.  And reeking of solitude.  The smell of it!  The faint, musty smell of solitude.  I would recognize it anywhere, immediately.  And it’s a lonely stench which makes, of isolation, an inevitability, it seems.  Except that it’s as if this loneliness were somehow necessary:  necessary to all that is to follow.  And I’ve created it myself.  Alone, I know:  this loneliness.  And unimaginable, it seems:  to others.  Not precisely.  Not fully.  Not in all its horror …  Not even to you, my love, as you begin, already, to forget.  And perhaps not even to me, I myself.  Not yet.  And it’s this that I fail to understand.  Going on and on.  It frightens me, do you see?  Like a forlorn anxiety worrying away at my scrambled nerves:  an intense longing, lonely, for my death.

For mine and for yours.

Yes.

So must I die, the darkness pulling me into it, closing in around me, all around me, closer, closer still, closing in?

And shall I?

Can I?

Must I?

Now?

Or in a moment?

Five bells:  the morning.  And soon I’ll be awake.

Tin-tin – –  tin – – tin-tin.

Too late!

 

But wait …

Open the doors, damn it, and knock knock knock forever!  I shall, I shall!  Enter!  Enter in …  I shall!

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!

Yes!

Let me pass and go on entering quietly in …

But don’t look, don’t look!  Don’t look back, don’t look back!

I remember.

But …

Look!

 

And my nerves are in their infancy:  it’s as if I cannot help it.

And I move, I turn, I look.

Don’t look!  Don’t look!

 

But now I do look:  and I look again.

And what is it that I see?

This time:  my eyes, out there …

In the darkness of all that lies beyond.

What do I see?

I …

 

I have suffered with those that I saw suffer.

Yes:  I think, I think …

And for a moment my eyes are closed.

Open.

Then closed.

 

But at first I see nothing:  my eyes dark in the absence of light.

But then, slowly, I do begin to see, I think …

I see a pair of eyes:  a pair of eyes opening in the darkness.

A pair of eyes looking this way and that, rolling around and around as in some dreadful storm.  Not still, not calm.  But now here, now there.  Darting this way and that and from side to side.  Going round and round and up and down.  On the surface and then submerged.  And for a moment seeming near before once more lost.  Near and then far and then never again so soon to see or seen.  Those eyes:  floating.  As if the darkness were a kind of empty ocean:  a blind sea.

And …?

Yes:  I look, I see.

And those eyes seem so like my own:  looking where I look and seeing my seeing.  And those eyes, like mirrors, reflecting back the empty sadness of this blind, absent looking, which now, finally, I see:  this looking lost.

And I hate this separation – this dreadful distance.

I can see so far, but …

I wish I were blind!

Looking, always looking.

My eyes rolling this way and that.  And still I try to open them:  wider, larger.  I try to open my eyes, to push them out and beyond:  going ever further and further.  I clench them tight like two fists.  Fists squeezed tighter and tighter into tiny points.  Grit in my ghostly eyes.  Then fling them far away.  Squeezing, squinting, straining.  Out into the blind darkness.  Away from me forever …

 

The question:  what is it that I see?

Now, for example, right now:  what can I see?

Out there …

In the darkness of the eyes I look through, like a dream.

What do I see?

 

I see nothing.

To begin with, as always, it’s as if I see nothing:  as if again I see nothing.

And again:  nothing.

But then, slowly …

Are you with me?

 

Slowly, very slowly …

I do begin to see …

Delirium, yes:  a face.

Do you follow?

Or can you trace the lines, perhaps:  cut them out?

A face.

So give me your hand, the knife …

And yes:  yes …

Yes:  this time it’s a face.  A face, I’m sure:  a face as if formed from my eyes.  And I close my eyes:  imagine.

Let’s say …

 

Let’s say it’s the face of a child:  a young boy, perhaps four or five years old.

 

(And I ask myself:  is it me?)

 

And then another, this time a man, the scene expanding.

 

(Me again?

As if always the same old story …

I am not told.

I do not know.)

 

(Although anything, it seems to me, is possible.

And in my mind I mould my memories from only the barest fragments of possibility, from nothing …)

 

Do you remember?

 

Yes.

But now again I’m alone.

And I sit at my desk:  staring into space.

Silent except for the whirring of my thoughts:  it’s my head inside the machine, making this noise, spinning around and around.

And when the screen goes blank I see stars.

As if I’ve closed my eyes.

Closing my eyes the better to keep watch.

A shadow of a shadow of a shadow.

Look …

 

My sleep is broken.

And I know that I have dreams.

And in these dreams I see things that I likewise know cannot be true.

And yet I believe them.

I watch.

And I follow.

 

And they stand together in what looks like a park:  a city park, perhaps.  There are swings and roundabouts, see-saws and rocking horses, logs and benches.  A small field rolls out to one side, its grassy covering, otherwise an intense green, becoming, in places, bare and earthen, bruised by the constant running and jumping of young, sprightly feet, or else dry and parched, smoked yellow beneath a bright burning sun.  Into one corner of the field, at the far end, drops a public swimming pool, clashing blue against the green, but covered and dirty looking, unused.  And next to it, dug out into an unruly hole, is a pit of sand, sparkling gold.

There are children dashing around all over the place, in chaotic abandon, wild things which scream and shout, first leaping up into the air, then falling down, time and time again, like miniature dancers in a comic ballet.  And their costumes, as they run through their steps, are the eyes of others, glittering upon their bodies like sunlight:  parents, grandparents, siblings and friends, nurses and nannies.  I am not the only one who sees them there:  dancing.

But then, as I watch, that man, the same man, starts yelling at the child, the first, abruptly enraged, apparently, by something said or done, or not said, not done.  The child lowers his head, looking forlorn, confused, suddenly terribly alone, like an orphan, and now isolated among his peers.  Occasionally he throws quick glances towards the parents and guardians of some of the other children, their attention momentarily drawn in by the ugly, incongruous noise of the man’s shouting voice, so loud and so aggressive.

The boy looks pitiful, a powerless supplicant reduced to begging and pleading, appealing for some kind of support, some merciful assistance with his wide, teary eyes, which wander nervously and without purpose, as if lost, slipping uneasily across a long line of blurred, adult bodies:  of those, that is, who remain, still lingering awkwardly nearby.  The rest have quickly turned their backs, invisible.  And even those who do remain, watching open mouthed, anxious, their eyes flicking to and fro, pretend they see nothing.  They’re like a chorus cast from a Greek tragedy, crying:  ‘We are blind!  We are blind!’

And it’s only later, in secret, that they share some sad, frustrated sympathy:  it’s a terrible business, life, muttering, I hear them, drawing near, one to the other.  And one day that boy will be a man.  Such a shame.  He’ll soon start hitting back, the horror spreading like a contagion.  For sure.  For sure.

Imagine.

 

And I blink, blind.

I’m still in the same place, I think.  But it’s later now, it’s night:  all the youngest children have run away, hiding in the dark.  Three youths are now the only figures standing out, silhouetted against the lights of the city, which keep on hurrying past, flashing on and off, it seems, at will, like night time eyes, blinking, like my own.  This I choose to see.  And this I will not see.  For this I have eyes.  And for this I am forever blind.  Open.  And closed.  Open.  And closed.  Open.  Closed.

 

And these boys, it looks to me, are dancing:  a high spirited can-can with kicking feet and clapping hands to a dull, thudding beat.  They form a tight circle, dancing around and around, first in one direction and then the other, their arms entwined:  weavers of destiny.

Crouched in their centre, haloed in the dance, is a dark, bundled up ball.  It’s an old man, in fact:  a drunkard, bruised and battered by life and now bloody, vomiting.

I …

He’s trying to say something, to speak, but it’s lost, like a whisper.  And I, too:  I too am whispering, I realize, a futile mimic, as if mouthing the man’s words.  The boys, of course, don’t hear him:  they’re too busy laughing.  Laughing and crying.  The silvery sounds singing out across the air, the night seeming suddenly still, listening.

 

And dark thoughts, cold, appear to crystallize above my head.  Dense, they form a cloud of despair, a black mist descending like a lover, piercing eyes in the darkness, silent and suffocating.

And I ask:

So am I dead already?

No:  not quite yet.

Not quite …

 

And I blink, blind:  my eyes still rolling, like film.

 

And how far can I look and yet still be said to see?

I don’t have an answer.

But I do my best.

Still looking …

 

And these clouds, potent, menacing, assemble on the horizon:  they are restless like shadows moving in the dark.

And they seem to group and regroup, agitated, as if arguing among themselves.

And I look:  I see.

Their flight appears swift:  in a moment they’ll be here, over us, upon us.

And then we’ll be lost:  trapped in a storm.

 

But I’m waiting:  still waiting.

And, as I wait, a bus pulls up sharp, stopping abruptly beside me.

And the driver sits in shadow.

He speaks, but indistinctly, as if he’s mumbling at me in a foreign language.  It sounds a bit like:  ‘You’re coming with us.  Get on …’

And I listen to my voice.

‘Yes, I know – I’ve known it all along.  And yes of course I’m coming …’

I answer, automatically, as if the words, fully formed, were prepared earlier, already rehearsed and only waiting in my subconscious, like me, for the next available dream.

And here it is:  I step on.

I move down the bus with my head straight before me, not looking to my left or right, my eyes as if closed yet staring out.  Eventually I select a corner seat, crumpling into it as the bus lurches forward.  I crunch up against the bulge of the wheel rim, trying to look small and inconcspicuous.  Someone has left a newspaper on the adjacent seat.  I pick it up and open it.  It’s large enough to hide behind and I sit there trying to do so, like a spy in a cheap thriller, but in fact just feeling foolish.  There’s a thin draft from a window behind me which tickles my neck and rustles the paper.

My eyes glance down at the lead story.  American troops occupying a terrorist nation.  Troops on full alert but morale still dangerously low.  A massive and fully mobilized war machine needs an enemy.  But an enemy can’t be found.  ‘We’re here to kill people’, one senior officer is quoted as saying, ‘and instead we’re sitting around on our arses all day, getting f***** off and flabby’.

Quite.

I take a peak above the page.

The bus is nearly empty, to begin with at least, although it soon stops again, and then, afterwards, at short, regular intervals, for the collection of other passengers.  None get off but many get on.  Their movements mostly jerky, nervous, they traipse to their seats in single, orderly lines, heads down, cautious.  They never look up.  And I, too, find myself once again looking down, pretending to be engrossed in my paper, not looking, not listening.

I hear a voice, saying:  ‘I am not here!  I am not here!’

And we …

We are thin, like ghosts:  and all of us as if absorbed, elsewhere.

All of us, that is, except for a couple sitting behind me.  They are fighting both between themselves and with another man who sits nearby.  The angry noise that they are making seems to render them real, these characters, strangely sharp in a world of sullen shadows as they pursue a drunken quarrel to which I cannot help but listen.  Although for now, at least, I don’t turn around to look, to see who’s there.  To me they remain as empty bursts of sound:  people lost in voices.  Voices speaking:  I hear them.  Only them …

Shit.

Shit.

Shit.

‘So why didn’t you fucking stick by me?  Why didn’t you stick up for me?’  The voice is that of a man.  Desperate.  Enquiring.  Savage.  ‘You silly fucking cow!  Fucking tart!  Can’t get enough, is that it?’  It’s now a woman:  ‘oh fucking shut up, will you?’  A woman’s voice.  ‘And you can all shut the fuck up an’all!  You can’t get a moment’s fucking peace in this place!’  Once more a man.  Another.  The accent foreign, across a border, it seems.  The border.  Sleep?  Not far away:  not far enough.  For the first man, at least.  ‘The fucking wanker!’, he says.  ‘It’s my fucking country.  I was fucking born here, wasn’t I?  The fucking cunt!’  And so on and so on and so on.  Then back to the woman.  ‘Fuck this, fuck that, fuck you!’  Fucking and fucking and fucking.  Like a right fucking mess.  For sure.  Going on and on.  ‘To love and to cherish.’  He says, sarcastically.  ‘Fuck you!’  ‘To have and to hold.’  She echoes, laughing now, desperate.  ‘Fuck you!’  From this day forward …  Then day after day.  Night after night.  ‘Fuck you!  Fuck you!  Fuck you!’  The laughter now lost.  There’s just the sound of dark thumping:  the dull thud of punching fists rising up above the background hum of frightened, whispering voices caught up in the drone of the engine, itself pumping loud and then soft like a single beating heart above the breath.  That fucking engine:  the noise it makes is terrible.  ‘It needs fixing’, I think to myself.  ‘There’s something wrong with it.  And to be heard we must all of us scream and shout … ‘

Fuck you!

Fuck you!

Fuck you!

The bus itself seems indifferent:  it hears nothing.  Hurrying on and on, it goes to god knows where.  There is no direction.  And none of it’s making much sense:  it’s like a dream.  Or rather:  it is a dream.  A dream of a dream.

Until another voice, asking:  ‘Who cares?’

And I wonder.

And likewise:  is the time passing?

It must be, I suppose.

But where is it going?

I do not know:  I am not told.

Until at last we reach it:  our final destination, the terminus, the end.  And sure enough it’s like the very limit of nowhere.

And gradually we file out – all of us.  One after another.  We’re so many now:  who would have thought it?

And was I sleeping?

The bus has picked up what I guess are hundreds and hundreds of other passengers.  Although after a while it begins to feel almost as if there are more:  thousands, millions.  How was there room?  I’ve no idea and no time to stop and think.  Events are moving too swiftly and I’ve no choice but to follow the others, swept up among them, as I am, in wave after wave of blustering life, lost like a man at sea, drowning.

I take a deep breath:  breathe in, breathe out, gulp, try to relax, then swallow …

Fucking Hell!

 

Tripping, I fall into the night.

And it’s so dark outside.  And, although the air feels hot, sweating, I’m cold:  I shiver.

I close my eyes.

I close my eyes but still I see.

And you:  do you see?

Yes:  yes I think so.

So that I look now into this the most strange of all landscapes:  my scrambled sight squirming in its horrors and all my senses as if divided against themselves.

What can I say?

It’s like a sickness, a seizure.

A dream:  a fever.

Imagine.

And whatever it is, in your imagination, that you think that you can see, right now, it’s worse, far worse:  believe me.

It’s worse and it’s still worse and it’s ever worse.

Close up or from a distance:  it makes no difference.  So that my eyes seem populated:  there are people everywhere.  And it takes some time but at last I find some focus:  my eyes settling for a moment, finally, upon a small young child.  Abused.  Abandoned.  Looking up, I …  Then a mother who is crying, alone.  The specifics of brutality, I suppose.  A rape.  A murder.  Then everywhere the eyes:  killing.  As they all lash out, all these people:  one at another.  So that I find myself watching as man after man, woman after woman, child after child, is beaten and killed:  struck down, for life.  It’s impossible to watch:  to see.  But my eyes are closed already:  I do see.

And the numbers seem continually to escalate.  First a group of family and friends, a street, perhaps, a tribe, a town, a city or a language, whole countries and continents:  a mass of humanity.  Going on and on.  And it’s like a continual sacrifice:  the shedding of blood.  A sacred duty:  paying homage to a world of chaos.  And so many fall cold to the bottom of my dream:  one upon another.  As if they’ve been discarded, forgotten, left waiting, alone, until they’re one day washed away, their drowning mouths as if crying out in silence and their faces disfigured in the fear of death, the lost life.  And their heads, bobbing slowly up and down, are twisted oddly, awkwardly, I notice, as if in all the wrong directions.  And as their eyes grow ever larger and larger, swelling up like balloons, or seeming to, at least, I watch.

I watch for as long as I can.

But eventually they all roll back, once and for all, falling.

And I fall with them.

I know it’s happening.

I know it:  I can sense it.

But it’s all too much, don’t you see?

I can’t bear it!

My eyes.

Falling.

Falling.

As if falling so deeply:  maddening the mind.

It drives me mad!

And …

My thoughts are bloody:  I wish to die.

 

And you?

Are you still there?

And if you are:  are your eyes still open?

Open:  or closed?

Do you see?

 

Yes.

Yes I think so.

I think so.

At least.

And I look.

I look again.

Look here:  look there …

Everywhere.

But still I cannot find you.

I cannot find you, my love.

I’m blind, I know:  the light so dim, so dark.

I’m just a figure lying lonely on the floor.

And cutting:  cutting …

The blood.

But where are you?

You and I.

Tell me:  speak.

Where are you?

I cannot find you, my love.

I cannot hear your voice, your words.

I cannot hear …

 

A voice:  voices …

Do you remember?

Blinking, blind.

And I look, I look:  my eyes opening wide.

And now open, I think:  fully open.

Open.

I look.

 

I look around at all these people:  the inhabitants of my disturbed dream.

Everyone seems either to be shouting or screaming:  bewildered, frenzied.  No voice is calm or clear.  And the words they speak are all mouthed in mumbles, blowing out scorched, melted, in the air, separated haphazardly into pieces and then snapped at by desperate, razored mouths.  The yacking cackle babble of the immorality brigade in chorus with the shrieking torture screams of the living and the dying, the faithful and the infidel.  That’s what it’s like.  It’s like a ululating soul screeching.  Like fluctuating spirits:  quivering and restless.  Restless beneath a constant bomboardment of noise.  A noise which is entirely without shape or meaning:  it’s utterly incoherent.  And suffocating.  Breathless.

I try to silence my ears, but there’s no escape from the noise.  It’s incredible:  like a wailing lust for blood in wave upon wave of barbaric dissonance.  It takes a grip around my head like a vice:  I hear it, the sounds now glued together, covering me all at once, sticking, relentless.  Beginning first as a savage warble somewhere deep within the throat:  then crowing and screeching and cawing and squawking and squealing, the sounds vomited out like a sickness.

And I hear the awful howling of the dogs:  the hundred dog-headed, serpent-tailed, monstrous hell hounds.  And then the ratatattat of artillery fire:  body-jerking misery rhythms.  And the noise from exploding bombs.  Loud, angry pain in the trembling air while bitter rain drops fall like shrapnel, so much shit from the sky.  And beneath it the sound of a grinding machinery:  fire and sparks, lead and iron.  And the low, mournful moan of a distant bell.

‘This is a war zone,’ I think.  ‘I’m at war.’

And imagine:  the noise.  The extraordinary noise.  Again and again the noise, banging against the walls of the mind.  There’s no quiet here.  No peace in the punishment pit:  not for anyone, not a single soul.

And the stench:  the stench is terrible.

And nor is there light:  not much, at any rate.  And what little is getting through is mostly lost, polluted in the murk, snubbed by shadow.  And the rest seems to stall, stuck uneasily in the air, unmoving.

Although then, and even as I have these thoughts, there’s an unexpected flash of bright light:  a fork of lightning, as if slicing it in two before tonguing out its middle, seems to sear my mind, opening it up.  And for a moment I see the sky.  It’s heavy, threatening:  full of dark, thick clouds, varying in colour between dun grey and jet black.  And there are no stars, or none, for the moment, that I can see, as if they’ve all burnt out.  And the moon is lost in madness.

Continually jostled on every side, I try to concentrate on light:  I look.  Storms prowl around at the edge of my vision.  A flicker, a flash:  I clutch at one shard of light after another, the sky as if shattered, my eyes bleeding.  A brief streak of illumination, floating ghostly in the air, offers hope.  It’s like a path, inviting me to walk it.  I follow:  nothing.  Just a return to the darkness.

The place is arid, sterile, desolate, and seeming as dead as the very air itself.

It’s a monstrous morphine vision, an infernal insomnia nightmare:  a nasty, waking dream of lonely horror.

‘Do I still live?’, I wonder.

And …

‘Am I alive or dead?’

I think of the ground, of being buried, deep, beneath the ground.

And it moves:  the ground appears to move.

‘It’s moving,’ I think.

Deeper:  still deeper.

I look down for it:  the darkness.

I look down.

And as I look down I begin to see a procession of semi-demented creatures rising up from the damp, boggy earth like so many bleary, bloated worms, writhing in the dirt.  Their half-human forms throw vast shadows in the traces of light, glinting in their red, glaring eyes, a few of which, I notice, have been scratched out, left dangling from their sockets, red and bloody.  Their teeth, bright, appear fanged against the darkness, their skin dark and shiny and covered with thick, greasy hair.  They are more animal than human, I think, moving around in shadowy packs and almost rabid in their ear cutting snarls of sharp, anguished pain.  They claw at the air, their knuckles white:  their desperate, angry movements like some macabre dance of death.

And I look down:  deeper.

Dark, empty, shapeless, formless shadow creatures.  I watch as they are subjected, by tiny, darting devils, to a series of ever more ingenious tortures:  maiming, mutilation, piercing and stoning, their bodies as if impaled upon their pain, agonized, groaning.  It’s a loathsome, blood-gorged feast of sour, flesh licking foulness.  A sewer of blood and filth as if trickling out from each of these horrible hallucinations …

And I watch as all their natural human wants and appetites are systematically twisted and transformed into a lurid dementia:  communication tongue slicing, the lips singed with the enflaming kisses of dirtied desire, then sweating thirst and an immense, devouring hunger, deep down, inside, the guts as if nibbled gradually away from within, then gritty urination and chronic constipation, no never pleasure satisfaction and mock rituals sordid sex sanctity, marriage inverted perverted, baptism by immersion in boiling oil, orgiastic consecration desecration, down suffering soul depression, night sweats trepidation, and open eyes all human horror seeing.

And then I look down again:  still deeper, staring still.

The darkness:  moving.

Until at last there is light:  first a warm orange glow and then, a moment or two later, as if everything were ablaze.

And I watch these darkened, fading people as slowly they begin to melt and burn, the blistered surfaces of their skin now hairless, naked, desquamating in the heat.  And as layer after layer is stripped gradually away, I sense the blood boiling and watch as their bodies roast, the scorched flesh already fading, like memory, the white bones turning burn black, grave and skeletal.  And I watch as black foam froths forth from wide, open mouths, and listen, likewise, to the sounds of bubbling brains, melted mind, popping against the eardrums with a noise like gunshot.

And I keep on watching as all these horror faces seem to leer up at me as I look at them, in turn, their collapsed bodies packed tightly together, propping each other up in belated fraternal embrace:  standing absolutely still now, black candles alight, they are human torches, death on parade.  And it’s a hatred hell holocaust, this vision:  life turned to ashes.

And yet still I watch.

I watch as the flames turn blue.

‘Blue flames above a black grave,’ I whisper to myself.

Why?

I’m not sure …

I do not know:  I am not told.

I close my eyes:  blinking, blind.

And how this darkness creeps into the blood.

It seems.

Do you feel it?

Yes.

This darkness creeping into the blood, chilling it with its clutching obsidian fingers.  Sun darkened and earth trembling:  small people shivering in the cold of here seeming no hope, no end.

So here then is the grief, and here the laments, of a vale of tears.  A vale of acid, bitter tears falling like an eternal, accursed rain – cold and heavy and stinking of foul fluids.  And we are helpless in this rain:  standing staring still in the night.  It seems.

And I myself seem grim in this horror.

And the sun has turned black.

It’s like a hell on earth.

I think.

Truly:  I can see it.

But it’s too much.

And I cannot go on, go on …

Cannot.

Must.

Do you hear?

There is no choice.

There is simply no choice.

So go on:  go on.

And …

 

I shall enter, I shall enter!  I must, I must!  Let me in, let me in, let me in!  And know not how or why but only that to enter now is obligatory for the going on …

So open the doors, damn it, and knock knock knock forever!

I shall enter, I shall enter!  I shall, I shall!  Enter!  Enter in …  I shall!

 

But no!

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!

And don’t you understand?

Don’t you understand, then?

No!

You are mortal:  you must not enter.

And you shall not:  you shall not enter …

 

Yes.

I listen.

And I hear your voice:  an echo.

Thank you for this lovely sleep, my darling.

Although the morning will wake us:  do not forget it.

The morning will surely wake us.

As if it’s time:  it’s time to wake up.

So open your eyes!

Wake up!

Wake up!

 

And behold, thou art fair, my love;  behold thou art fair;  and thou hast the eyes of a dove.

 

But listen:  if you’re going through hell, keep going.
If you’re going through hell:  keep going.

And then …

Yes, let me pass and quietly enter, creeping in like a thief in the night – like a small black spider crawling silently upon the web of life – into the dark and deadly shadows of mind and memory.  The gates creaking.  And the darkness dropping down:  descending ever lower and lower.  So that finally I enter, enter in …

Screaming: …………………………. NO!!!!!

But …

This was the dream from my night.

This was the dream from my night.

And it’s enough.

For now.

Do you hear me?

Do you hear?

 

And do you remember?

 

Yes.

Yes:  I remember.

But it’s no wonder that I didn’t find you.

And yet I looked for you everywhere.

But of course it was depressing:  sure – of course it was.

What do you imagine?

I felt I failed you.

And I felt, failing you, that …

Well:  what can I say?

It was a nightmare.

That’s all.

And I’m sorry.

 

But still:  I suppose that in a sense I was used to it.

It was the only thing at which I’d ever been even remotely successful:  failure.  Men in general seem quite good at it, as if it comes to them more easily than to women.  And as a man prone to failure I was brilliant.  Eventually I developed a great pride in my talent for getting things wrong, for misunderstanding, messing up.  I was defiant:  perhaps perversely so.  But still:  I’ve travelled far in failure.  It’s been my path.

It was harder when I was young.

Then I was full of anger.

Anger at being told that I was a failure.

At having it drummed into me.

Beaten into me.

Cutting into me.

My father.

And I blamed my father:  thought him the real failure.

And it’s true that he hadn’t added up to much either.  A low ranking officer in the professional army;  often away from home;  constantly banging on, when he was at home, about ‘doing one’s duty’;  probably a bit of a coward at heart;  a bully, certainly …

But even supposing that he’d failed me …

If …

This too was unexceptional.

No worse than he’d endured from his own father, I’m sure.

He followed the path before him, the footsteps gone before, that’s all.

Like me.

It matters little.

As if from one generation to another:  the failure flushed through with blood.

It’s not my wish to judge him.

Only myself.

And yet …

There always seemed, in any case, something so false, unconvincing, about worldly success:  something slightly cheap, even, or predictable.  It was certainly miserly.  People hoarded it to themselves, guarding it jealously with all the tremendous resources at their disposal.  They wouldn’t lose it for the world:  not on your life!  And sure, puffed up with pride, big with their success, there was no question but that they showed themselves splendidly.  And yet how stupid it all was.  And unimaginably boring.  I couldn’t bear it.

Still:  it would have been better, I’m sure, easier, less complicated.

One understands success, naturally.

But failure:  that’s a real shock to the system.  It’s practically unforgivable.  Unimaginable.

And I wish I hadn’t failed you.

Not you:  at least.

Not you.

 

But it was the endless questions of my parents – my father, to be precise (my mother mostly silent) – and a few now very distant relatives that I found most trying, most hard to bear.  ‘What are you going to do?’, they would ask, over and over again.  ‘What are you going to do?  What will you do with your life?’

The questions, after a while, began to answer themselves.

‘Are you really happy just to drift like this?  And do you really want to end up without a proper job?  Or alone?  Unloved?  On the streets, even?  What on earth are you thinking?  And what on earth will you amount to?’

Yes.

Yes.

Yes.

Yes.

Nothing.

And it was lucky for me that the positive negative or the negative positive answers were already to some extent implied in these questions.  I never had any answers of my own to hand out:  I didn’t know what I was doing.  I hadn’t a clue.  And I’m not even sure if I cared.  At any rate I came to believe that I didn’t:  I’d finally been convinced of it by others, I suppose.  The weight of rebuke.

Although to me their questions did indeed seem more or less meaningless.  What did it matter?  What did any of it really matter?  And was there a choice?  Is that what they imagined?

Disappearing into my books became a way of hiding from these irksome questions:  the questions that seemed so unimportant, the questions that felt inappropriate, the wrong questions to be asking.  And later on I would disappear in order to write so that writing then became my hiding, my favoured form of escape.  Except that generally I didn’t write, of course.  I was a failure, after all.  Not a success.  I couldn’t write, not really.  I didn’t know how to write.  And so I waited.  Simply waited.  For hours and hours.  Days and days.  Weeks and weeks.  Months.  Years.  My life.

And I waited in the hope that the words would gradually emerge in my mind, would slowly sound in my ears, take shape before my eyes.  And it may surprise you.  But words did then appear.  And these words, the few words that reached me in this way, I measured carefully on a scale, like a pharmacist:  testing their sound and their resonance, the weight of their meaning, their purpose and significance.  I was very slow:  I did everything very slowly.  But then I was dreaming.  And everything in a dream is slow.

 

But I was always very grateful for my dreams.

They scrutinized my words, my language, and in this way they helped my writing.

And during those frequent periods when I felt that I couldn’t write at all, when I was blocked, for example, the words wrapped up within myself, stifled into silence, shut up, locked in, I always waited for a dream that, sooner or later, would liberate me, a dream that would open a door or a window, give me air so I could breathe and blood so I could move, and, in doing so, would loosen my tongue so I could speak, my hands to note down words, impressions, trace the lines of my life.

And it was as if the answer to the writing came always in a dream:  as if the writing itself were just an extension or a continuation of the dreaming.  As if the dreams did all the work …

Well:  perhaps not all of the work.

Perhaps not all of it.

And besides these words that sometimes I seemed to hear, like a dream, from within, I also listened out for comments tossed aside by others, words from books and songs and films, sights and settings, language and music, mixed with the colour from paintings, the drama from life, so much verbal waste drawn from anywhere and everywhere, dragged up from a deaf, forgotten silence, as if brought back suddenly to life, kicking and screaming.

And eventually words gathered and took shape.

And from time to time I even managed to write them down and eventually to write quite a lot, in fact, assembling the words one by one, moving them around from here to there, sometimes the words as if heavy, in stone, chipping away at them as might a sculptor, at others light, ephemeral, testing their taste in my mouth, their sound in my ears, reading aloud and repeating them, over and over again, playing them through like music, the rhythms, the melodies, until eventually they began to form a structure of their own, distinct from how they’d seemed, at first, when I was working on them, becoming now like a life apart, in fact, like company.

Although it was never very long before the doubts would set back in:  they always did, sooner or later.  Especially when I tried to reread, to edit and to cut.  Then they set in with a vengeance, these terrible doubts:  they destroyed me.

Shit.

Shit.

Shit.

After all it didn’t take much for me to convince myself of the utter futility of all I’d done.  The words were really nothing, seeming weak when looked at in the cold light of day, lacking form or purpose, merely a noise to be smothered in silence, patterns to be blanked out, rubbish rejected, demanding destruction:  once and for all erased, in fact.  And I agreed to everything.  My doubts made many demands.  And I assented to them all.

But of course I also needed it.  I wanted the doubt.  And I wanted the failure.  And I wanted to go on.  Further and further.  Never stopping.  Going on and on …

Until eventually my writing seemed all of it so bad that I even saved myself the bother of reading it:  mentally I erased the words as soon as I thought them.  So that eventually my writing became invisible and my words …

Well:  my words were but silence and variations of silence.

But still I kept on dreaming.  This, at least, continued.  Although my dreams were largely nightmares.

Do you remember?

 

But yes.

Yes, yes:  I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking that I’m being modest, that I’m fishing for a compliment.

But you’re wrong:  that’s not it at all …

I’m not pretending.

And to prove it I say to you this …

Don’t bother:  just don’t bother to read it.

That’s the best thing you can do.

Just stop right here:  stop immediately.

There’s simply no point in going on with it:  I realize this myself.  And I say the same to you.

Don’t go on.

Do you hear me?

I don’t want to be read.

Perhaps I’m not even meant to be read.

And I ask for no audience.

I don’t really care to be honest.

It’s simply of no interest.

Whether to stop or go on.

But at least you’ve the choice.

To stop, I mean …

You can stop right now if you want to.

Go on …:  I dare you!

(You’d miss the next bit, of course.)

But me …

I’ve no choice:  no choice at all.

Go on:  going on …

And how tedious it sometimes seems.

I know.

But listen …

I cut:  I cut again and again.

I kill myself.

I kill myself in words.

And I kill myself in words so that in life I live …

So if you do go on, read slowly:  read as slowly as you can.

As if you’re dying for these words …

As if you’re dying.

 

And still I dream:  I’ve always kept on dreaming.

This, at least, has continued.

And how extraordinary these dreams have sometimes seemed.

I dreamed, for example, that one day I would draw together words so powerful, so bewitchingly beautiful, that they would render us all divine, washed up in a glory as perfect and as magnificent as silence or death.

And this was my dream.

To hear the music of the world …

The strangeness of its poetry.

I thought it possible.

Although often, it’s true, I got stuck, stopping suddenly, frozen dumb.

And a single word would seem unimaginably mysterious.

Almost unbearably so.

And I couldn’t bear it, in fact.

I couldn’t go on.

Go on.

And as for writing even one good sentence:  even one good sentence felt likewise beyond me …  A task for a lifetime.  And this, I suppose, is how I saw my wish to write.  It was a form of apprenticeship.  Only it was an apprenticeship from which I’d never be released:  an apprenticeship that would never reach its end.  Asking:  can I write?  Can I really write?  Not yet.  Wait …

I had my masters.

But my masters were either already dead, or else as good as dead already, being distant, unreachable, living only, in my isolated imagination, in a semi-mythical land made up solely of the meeting of their words and mine.

I heard their voices.

This was what mattered.

A filtering of their voices …

Sometimes speaking so softly as to make it nearly impossible to hear them.

At others yelling with all the noise of a hundred demons, hostile to the habitual silence of my room and scaring me half out of my wits with fear.

Such is a master.

And their voices echoed in my mind:  I listened to them with all the strength of my hearing, repeating their words, the sounds of their words, their voices, wondering always as to their meaning.

And begin …

They said.

Begin …

Enter.

Enter in …

But how could I begin?

How would I do it?

How would I enter the spirit of the words that I was seeking …  And where would I seek them?  What must I do?  Where must I start?

And for a long time I found no answers to these questions.

But only still more silence.

The words …

Like a dream.

 

But listen.

My nerves are in their infancy:  I cannot help it.

And I stir, I shift, I move, I turn, I look.

Don’t look!  Don’t look!

Do you remember?

 

Yes.

Yes:  I remember.

And I remember the words that you used.

Life goes on.

You said.

Hands open, palms up.

Touching the earth and the sky.

And going on …

That’s it.

It’s what’s going on inside …

The breath.

Flowing in, flowing out.

As if life still breathing …

And everything in motion.

Like a vast movement …

Fragmented.

Formless.

These memories.

So many merging colours.

And shapes.

And sounds.

The screaming and the shouting.

The crying out …

I remember.

As if everything moving …

Fluid.

Awash.

Like a vast ocean.

Or adrift in the air, like clouds.

Or floating in space.

Like being lost in time.

And coming and going.

Near and far.

Flowing in, flowing out.

And going on and on …

As if forever.

Like life.

It seems.

And breathing still.

Breathing in, breathing out.

And my breath is everywhere:  flowing all around me, inside and out.

And it’s as if I’m transparent, invisible – a vapour.

Now this way, now that.

Like so many patterns in the air.

And like the blood, running …

This way, that.

And gasping out …

For air.

For life!

And still I breathe.

Breathing in.

Breathing out.

Do you remember?

 

Yes.

And this is me.  Born.  Alive.  Alive at last.  In memory, at least.  Like a ghost of myself:  the brother behind me.  And looking again and again.  Looking this way and that.  Looking back.

Don’t look back!  Don’t look back!

Alone and looking.

Looking and lost.

Like playing hide and seek …

‘I shall shut my eyes and you must all of you disappear!

Get away from me, get away, get away!’

One, two, three, four …

Five, six, seven, eight …

Nine, ten …

So that now I’m alone.  But the solitude makes me shiver.  I feel cold.  Lost.  And I’m scared.  I can feel it.  I shouldn’t be, I know.  It’s only a game:  nothing more.  A game.  But my eyes are screwed shut.  And I’m totally in the dark.  As if entirely alone.  As if there’s no one.  And nothing.  Except me:  just me.  All alone in the darkness.  Except that I don’t even see myself.  The light is so far, so distant.  There is no moon.  And only the occasional flickering of far away stars.  As if deep in the depths of my eyes.  A black night.

And still I’m counting.

Twenty.

Thirty.

Forty.

Fifty.

So many years from my beginning.  Can it really be so many?

But I shall count to a hundred.

A thousand, if needs be.  A million!

Waiting alone in the dark.

And looking out:  looking back.

Into my mind’s eye.

My memory.

 

I’m lying alone.

Alone in my bed:  I must be.  And everything around me seems dark and heavy.  And I’m alive but my eyes are not yet open:  I see this.  I roll around and around and from side to side, as if moulding my body into all its different shapes and forms, before curling myself up, finally, into a small, tight ball, lost beneath the sheets.  My body, compressed beneath a great weight, like a heavy old blanket, the weight of a skin, shrinks shrivelling within:  as if I’ve disappeared.

But no:  my mouth falls open to throw out its contents, a voice, giving shape to sound in a strange, unfamiliar seeming song, new, unexpected, with long, drawn-out notes sliding up and down upon an indeterminable scale, the time passing.  In one moment it’s little more than a moan:  but then suddenly a melody.  A curious litany.  A child might understand it:  not me.  To me it’s only frightening:  a cut, a scratch on the ears.  And yet the mind clears.

 

And I want to enter.  Once and for all I want to enter, and shall – no matter what.  I want to open my eyes and enter.

And I shall.

I shall enter.

I know it.

Going on and on.

Cutting my way through …

Cut and cut and cut.

Running:  the blood.

 

But now I feel locked within my dreams:  the dreaming mind.  As if my eyes see only sleep.  Although slowly they do open, I think, so slowly they are opening:  so slowly, I think.  And only gradually awake:  if one can tell.  I try to look:  I look.  But for now they appear to mirror nothing:  my eyes.  Nothing but memory, in fact:  these dreaming eyes, always reflecting memory.  And so I catch myself again, in memory, looking back …

 

Don’t look back!  Don’t look back!

 

The voice:  an echo.

 

It’s like a dream waking slowly into life.

 

But softly, softly.

It’s just the sleep talking now:  a whisper.

And the night:  sweet, cloying, terrible.

Going on and on.

The voice:  always the voice.

You must trust the voice:  listen …

Awake!

It says.

Awake!

Awake!

 

Awake!

Awake!

And in a moment I’m up and out, calling:  ‘It’s time to get up!  It’s time to get up!’

As if finally I really am awake.  And for a moment I am:  I am awake, I know it.  I even run towards a mirror.  I’ll take a good look, asking …

‘Will I be there?  Will I really be there?’

 

And the mirror shows many things.

It sees me:  I exist.

 

And in a blur of flailing limbs I’m dressed and away.  My eyes are open and I begin the chase …  I shout:  I am alive!  And I’m screaming and shouting and laughing and crying all at once …  running and running and running.  Turning this way and that.  I was so light then, so fast.  Little more than a spirit, in fact.  Like a ray of the sun.

The blood.

And now I’m running in the fields and my mouth is wide open, open wide, gasping in the fresh clear air.  And I’m alive:  is it really true?  Alive.  And awake.  Running on and on:  my mouth …  As if I’m singing.  As if really I’m singing!

Do you hear?

Do you hear it?

It’s like a child singing – out there in the distance.

Singing song after song with every aimless, joyful word floating up into the air like so much morning mist, rising like incense, whispering in the sky and forming a halo of soft sounds around a young sun.  And so I sing and I sing and I sing:  I am the morning … I am alive!

And I run and run and run across the fields, and over the river, and out towards the woods and the forests:  I’m rolling and leaping and turning and whirling.  I’m like a bird about to leave the ground and soar up into the air.  And I stretch out my arms and I’m like an aeroplane speeding along a runway.  I’m like a rocket, taking off, bursting with energy!

And I jump up onto the playground swing – one long, smooth motion – and once again I’m a child:  a child swinging high in the air.  But I’m also reaching out to the sky – it seems so near! – singing the songs of the wind.  And trying to become those songs:  I am.  And to lose myself in the singing.  Passing higher and higher.  Like a blur in the heavens.  High up in the sky.  So high.

 

Listen.

I had a dream that my childhood had been different.

So what?

You may well ask …

But I’ll tell you:  I have to tell you.

It wasn’t really like that.

No:  not at all.

 

But listen.

Let me think …

 

And I suppose that mine might be described as having been a difficult childhood.

I didn’t feel wanted.

I didn’t feel loved.

Either beaten or ignored.

My father:  my mother.

I was driven into myself.

And lost to others.

Cut up, inside:  cut adrift.

I was a misfit.

 

So that I began to invent an alternative childhood, running parallel in my memory to that which is the truth.

 

I remember, for example …

 

Yes.

Yes, I remember:  looking back.

 

But wait.

There is so much in my memory that couldn’t possibly have happened that it all seems such a blur:  it’s so unclear.

As if the reality is a blank.

A clear white page …

Yes:  that’s it.

A clear white page cut now into a thousand tiny pieces …

And I’m at a loss.

A total loss.

But no.

No:  I don’t think so.

It’s just not possible …

Looking back.

Looking back.

And I know what I’ll do.

I’ll set it down.

I’ll set it down:  once and for all.

Right here and now:  right here before I reach the end.

So bring me paper:  pen and ink.

And hurry …

 

But no.

Be patient:  go slowly.

Once again alone in my memory.

Imagine.

 

Home.

Home:  a land of the living dead!

A phantom world.

And only occasionally did I see a passing figure …

Mother.

Father.

Hagridden:  hopeless.

And I myself seemed ethereal:  transparent in the light of the sun I was invisible in its absence.  I was barely real.  I was nothing.

And we were all of us like strangers.

Out of place.

Time.

As if peripheral to reality.

Like spirits of the past.

My memory.

 

And my parents had conceived me rather late in their lives.

Perhaps I was an accident:  I’m certainly no miracle.

 

‘Oh, it’s a boy – what a beautiful baby boy!

Look at that, look here, look …

Why don’t you hold him, then?

What a lovely little chap!

Go on …

Yes you can, of course you can …

Why don’t you take him in your arms?

Of course …

Go on!

Why don’t you take him in your arms?

Take him in your arms.

That’s it …’

 

She must have held me at least that once, I suppose, the midwife standing there beside her, encouraging …

I can think of no other time.

 

My father once said that it had nearly killed my mother to give birth to me.

I didn’t understand.

I still don’t.

But directly after my birth she slipped into despair:  plunged into it, rather, first submerged and then engulfed;  for the rest of her life she was drowning in it.  And, permanently bewitched by the enticing emptiness of those dark, murky waters, she discovered silence and this silence took a hold of her and never let go.  Only very rarely can I recall her speaking.  Screaming, shouting, squeaking, squawking:  yes.  A sudden burst of manic, sharp-eyed enthusiasm, terrifying in its unexpected intensity, erupted violently from time to time, it’s true … her voice then cutting me off, cutting me away, rising up from that mouth, a horrible bellowing hole … either excessively loving, suffocating me, or else stuffed full with anger and hatred … but straightforward speaking … calm, natural … almost never.

And she was so cold, so frigid:  reserved, withdrawn, distant.

It was usually only my father who spoke:  when he was there, that is …

He seemed to speak to himself.

‘Depression’, he called it.

The first of many:  so many.

So many years …

Perhaps she threw herself head first.

(I’m wondering, that’s all).

And in any case …

 

She ‘gave way’.

That was the expression my father used.

‘She was lost’, he said, ‘like her own mother before her …’

And for many of those first few days she wanted nothing to do with me:  absolutely nothing.  She couldn’t stand the sight of me and turned her face away when the nurses tried to draw out from her some maternal affection.  Her arms were kept closed.  And the milky warm comfort of her breasts I was similarly denied.  I was effectively motherless.  Or so my father always said.

‘Motherless’.

That’s what he said.

It doesn’t bode well for you when the first person in life to whom you’re properly introduced, and she your own mother, turns away in disgust, appalled by the sight of you, disdaining to touch you in any way, to pick you up, to acknowledge you.  All right:  she was depressed.  But so was I.  Babies learn quickly, after all, and this was my very first lesson:  I was ready and raring to go, eager to know the score.  I soon calmed down.  And also kept quiet, shut up, like my mother:  I was an unnaturally silent little baby.  A tiny little bundle of numbed indifference.  And no wonder:  my mother hit “reject” whenever she saw me.  Well honestly:  how would you feel?

From then on things were bound to go downhill.

And I, too, have been depressed ever since.

You think I’m joking, don’t you?

Wrong again:  I’m not.

It may look as if I’m laughing.

But come a little closer:  I’m crying my eyes out …

 

So of course I found it very easy, six or seven years later on, to convince myself that I was really an orphan:  the man and woman I thought of as my parents had in fact only adopted me.  And my real family were elsewhere.  I imagined that I’d been separated from them by accident or even as the result of some mysterious crime.  Perhaps I’d been abducted, moved to another country, sold on …  I was sure they were searching:  I felt sure that my real family were still looking for me.  But how would they ever recognize me?  Or I them?  No:  we were lost to each other, lost forever more.  And I was left alone:  left alone with my longing.

And how strange and feverish is the imagination of a child.

How strange and how feverish.

Do you remember?

 

Yes.

I remember.

Although my sight now shifts:  the scene changes.

And my words.

My words …

Do you see?

And it’s like this that I trace the lines of my memory, walking back into the past …

 

And now I walk towards that area of woodland which once marked the beginning of a forest.

Here I spent much of my childhood.

The haunted woods …

I really thought they were.

I was utterly convinced of it, in fact.

And I thought that with sensitive looking one would see them:  the ghosts.  Ghosts everywhere …  And I felt them:  traced their presence.  As if they were everywhere I looked:  haunting my eyes …

A riddle and its solution.

In this sense the woods were not a refuge for me.  I couldn’t really hide myself in the shadowy darkness of its trees nor properly escape from the more troubled of my thoughts:  other people, other places …

In any case it mattered little where I went:  I was watched.

And I trembled:  trembled beneath the cold contemptuous eye of disapproval.

Always there:  seeing everything.

Looking.

Looking.

And the woods were no exception.

Only the fears felt different.

 

‘Keep away’, you said.

 

You never liked the woods, I know.  And you hated the trees:  the trees above all.  They put you in mind of a hostile crowd:  a crowd closing in on all sides like powers of judgment.  They gave you the spooks.  And when the wind was strong and gusted through the treetops, the restless waving of the upper leaves and branches created a sound like that of an ocean.  And down below you felt like you were at the bottom of the sea, as if drowning in the flow of the wind, weighed down and trapped by the air.  And in general you thought the place too menacing:  too dark, too sinister.  It was better to avoid it, you warned me.  And especially after dark.  At night.  In winter.  The woods.  Like a nightmare.

 

But I’m jumping ahead:  looking back …

That was much later.

And by then, of course, your words could not frighten me:  not your words.  No more, at least, than I was frightened already …

 

But slowly I became accustomed to the company of fear.

And in the company of fear I often wandered around, alone, between the trees.  So that over me, at least, they exercised a strange fascination:  a power, magical, as if drawing me back to them again and again.  I cannot easily explain it.  Perhaps it was the fear itself that attracted me.  I do not know.  I am not told.  And I ask you:  what do you think?

Anyway.

I still went.

I followed.

Except:  does the past grow darker in my memory?

I ask myself.

I wonder.

Although I think now of the coolness of the woodland trees in the summer.  I felt naked, dancing between the branches like the sunlight, its thin rays tickling my body, a stream of light.  And all the changes:  the constant movement in the colours.  Perhaps it was this that I liked.

And I turn the leaves.

‘The oak tree of Chaonia and poplars, Phaethon’s sisters, crowded round, along with Jupiter’s great oak, with its lofty branches, and soft lime trees and beeches, and the virgin laurel, brittle hazels, and ash trees, that are used for spear shafts, smooth firs and the holm oak, bowed down with acorns, the genial sycamore, and the variegated maple, willows that grow by the rivers and the water-loving lotus, evergreen box, slender tamarisks, myrtles double-hued, and viburnum with its dark blue berries.  There was ivy too, trailing its tendrils, and leafy vines, vine-clad elms and mountain ash, pitchpine and wild strawberry, laden with rosy fruit, waving palms, the victor’s prize, and the pine, its leaves gathered up into a shaggy crest, the favourite tree of Cybele, the mother of the gods … ‘

In the later months I would watch the leaves, first as they fell, weeping towards the ground, and then, wet and rotting, as they were trampled into the sodden vegetation, a vivid autumnal red, at least for a while, as they bubbled around the tree stumps, a crude, soupy liquid.  The trees, I thought, were bleeding:  the darkness coming again.

And the nakedness of the windswept trees was in such stark contrast to their earlier leafy abundance that it seemed slightly shocking, too different to be credible:  as if the trees had been forcibly stripped and violated, laid bare.  And shivering in the wind seemed to madden them, to make them wild, screaming out for revenge, so that they lashed out their branches in every direction, cutting, screaming, swirling around and around.  And I, too, felt the madness:  I ran with the wind, my head held back, my mouth open wide, gasping at the air.  And my eyes became wild:  I saw the winter.

But there are no words for the winter.  The trees are cold and exhausted.  And everything becomes so hard and lifeless:  frozen solid.  Nothing moves:  not really.  Just the silence.  And the silence moves with you, following you everywhere like a constant companion.  It seems to be watching, waiting:  itself a kind of warning, hushed, not to speak, not to disturb.  ‘Don’t speak, don’t think, don’t feel, don’t look, don’t move,’ it says.  Until you yourself, shocked, become frozen, stuck, sculpted into the scene.

And the earth seems to heap around you as you stand there, roots breaking out from your toes, forming foundations for your trunk as your human shape hardens slowly into the shape of a tree, your arms becoming branches, your fingers twigs, your skin crusting over into bark, your bones making way for solid wood and your blood slowing down, becoming thick and sticky like sap.

And then I realized that it exists, it is real:  the winter.  But that is not all:  there is always something else, something behind the winter, driving it harder and harder, something stronger and more powerful.  You can almost sense it in the air:  a fear made tangible, icy on the breath.

And in the solitude of the woods my mind went mad.

A little mad:  I’m sure of it.

But my games were glorious:

Always alone, I thought myself sometimes a lumberjack, out to chop wood, sometimes a hunter, setting traps for the hares and the rabbits, although there were none, of course, and sometimes I was a primitive, wild but free.

On other occasions I simply stood:  looking, listening, feeling.

And I stood still for minutes on end, as if I myself were a tree, frozen stiff in the winter.

Or frozen stiff with fear.

As was the case at least once that I can think of.

I was alone beneath the trees, thinking myself adventurous, fighting through the brambles and the nettles, the undergrowth.  But the skin of my hands and arms was soon a bright flaming red, hot with blisters and rashes, my legs likewise cut and torn, the pain exciting, making me laugh.  I thought to cool myself in the water of the stream.

I headed for the stretch where the mud bank formed a low natural wall, easy to perch from, legs dangling, to wash or to chase with a net the tiny minnows darting around beneath the footbridge.

On the opposite bank was a tree which, although it looked precarious, must have been standing there for at least one hundred years or more.  It leaned over the stream like an old man bent double, attentive to the whispering words of the water flowing quietly beneath it, murmuring low in conversation.

I always felt that the tree was listening.

And what else had it overheard?

Or seen?

I wondered.

The wound of a sawn off branch, a woodpecker hole, these were the eyes …

Terrible things:  I was sure.

Scheming and betrayal.

Murder.

And I could feel the shivering skin:  the hurriedly buried dead …

And then I looked up …

How easy it must have been.

How easy to imagine the man, dangling down from the thickest of the branches – a corpse, rather, his neck caught tight in a noose, dropped a short distance on a rope, his head and body limp, the flesh as if slowly slipping away, leaving only the bones.

And so I did.

And there he was.

All the blood rushing from my head:  my eyes pale and lifeless.

Black, eyeless sockets:  two cavernous holes seizing hold of me, dragging me in, willing me to follow.

The dark sight of the blind.

Until at last he disappeared, fading away into nothingness.

I turned and fled:  running for my life.

With the eyes always behind me:  following.

I shot back a look …

But of course there was no one.

 

And one memory prompts another, I suppose.

And it must have been at around the same time.

A birthday party for one of the other boys from school …

I’m not sure why I was asked.  We weren’t friends.  Perhaps his mother had told him to invite me.  An act of kindness.

By the time I arrived at the house – I was just old enough to have been allowed out unsupervised – there were already many children there, mostly boys, one or two girls, all of us around the same age, eight, nine, ten, I forget.

Once through the door I was shuffled into the main room and given a cursory introduction.  I recognized only a couple of the faces.  The rest of the kids must have come from various social and sporting clubs that met after normal school hours.  For some reason I never attended any of these.  Maybe they were disallowed by my father.  Or simply didn’t interest me.

The children stood around awkwardly as if waiting instruction.  And sure enough it wasn’t long before the three or four representative parents started fussing around, stand here, stand there, do this, do that, barking orders, bossing:  as if the children were merely pawns in their excited nostalgic fantasy of a perfect childhood happiness.

But it transpired that the party had a theme.

No one had thought to tell me this.

Striped shirts, eye patches, fluffy toy parrots.

It was immediately obvious, but in my case too late, that we were to play at being pirates.

In class we’d been reading Treasure Island.

I should have guessed.

But as it was I was the only one not wearing appropriate clothing.  I was dressed in pale beige trousers, polished brown boots, and a green checked shirt which scratched me around the neck and arms.  I can remember very clearly what I was wearing that day as it was so utterly out of place.

And immediately I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed.

I thought to return home but hesitated too long.

My reflection in a glass window …

I felt ridiculous.

And waited for the children to start laughing.

But whether they did or not, whether they would or wouldn’t, didn’t matter.

In my head they were laughing already.  And there was nothing I could do to stop them.

 

But the first games were innocent enough.

We passed around an imaginary eye-glass, for example, chanting:  ‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with the letter … ‘

One of the parents then produced a real telescope:  a brass spy-glass dug up, no doubt, from the depths of an old junk box.  It helped us believe that the games were for real …

Then drinks were handed around:  small plastic beakers containing either root beer or blackcurrant cordial, noggins of rum …

And suddenly we were old sea dogs, drunk in a grog shop, singing:

‘Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest –

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!

Drink and the devil had done for the rest –

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!’

I don’t suppose that any of us knew what rum really was, but still.

 

We must have been making a lot of noise.

And one of the parents, to quieten us, stood up and whispered ssssssh …

Come nearer.

Come close.

Be a part of this conspiracy …

Listen.

‘Mates!’, she said, in a low, plotting voice:  ‘mates!’

‘Whatever you do …

Keep them open.

One of them, at least.

One of your good old weather-eyes.

Open them as wide as you can …

On the look out, of course:  the look out for a blind seafaring man, jagged teeth and scarred face, a parrot on his shoulder and a great thick crutch … ‘

And with a low theatrical bow, swinging her arm towards the door, she directed our eyes …

And sure enough …

There, looming large at the door, terrifyingly tall but also stocky, big boned, was the surreal apparition – out of place, out of time – of a pirate.  Black patches covered both his eyes and a long scar ran down the length of his face, as if cutting it in two.

He took a few swaggering steps into the room, then bellowed out:

‘Will any kind friend inform a poor blind man, a man, I might add, who has had the misfortune to lose the precious sight of both his eyes in the gracious defence of his native country, England – and God Bless King George! – where or in what part of this fair land he now finds himself?’

Struck dumb, not one of us ventured a word.  We stood like idiots:  staring in disbelief.

But even without the speech, delivered in a peculiar olde-worlde English and which I recognized immediately to have been cribbed directly, more or less, from Treasure Island, we were none of us sufficiently brave to speak up and to risk a word out of turn when faced with such a fearsome looking creature as was this man that stood before us.

After all:  we were all of us very young, very impressionable.

I was, at least.

Otherwise I’d have laughed.

Especially at the awkward conflation of blind man Pew, Black Dog and Long John Silver!

Was he a resting actor:  hired to entertain us?

I wonder.

But to his credit he must have spent some time on his appearance.

The fake cutlass scar, for example, was drawn from an inch above his right eye down across his cheek and nose to just above his upper lip.  It looked quite real and must have taken ages to get just right.

A large gold ring hanged down from his left ear.  And a bright red bandanna was tied tightly around the top of his head beneath which his long hair was combed back and arranged in a tarry tail which swished about around his shoulders when he moved.  His sailor’s shirt was of broad blue and white stripes, similar in style to those worn by many of the boys.  And over this he wore a great black seaman’s coat, complete with enormous cuffs and bright silver buttons.  On his feet were gigantic leather boots which reached almost to his waist.  And despite the fact that both his legs seemed in good working order, he carried a long wooden crutch beneath his left arm, which occasionally he would lift into the air and wave at us menacingly.  But he never knocked anything down or hit anyone while he was hamming it up with his stick.  And only later did I realize that his eye patches, too, were fake, and that, for a blind man, he could see well enough.  He was, in short, very good at his job:  he was a real professional.

But still more extraordinary than the man himself, however, was the live green parrot sitting calmly on his shoulder.  The sight of it delighted us:  our eyes extra round and wide, like saucers.  Not once did it utter a sound, not even to cry ‘pieces of eight!  pieces of eight!’  But we didn’t mind.  Its presence convinced us more than anything else that standing here before us was a genuine old salt, a true gentleman of the sea.  As if the bird were the man’s silent witness:  the proof of his identity.

Once he’d finished milking the drama of his sudden and unexpected entrance, the pirate bored his way into the centre of the room and slumped down upon a stool.  All the children rushed around him, getting as close as they dared.  But I myself kept out of sight, right at the back behind the others, not so much because I was frightened of the man, although I was, but more because I still felt embarrassed by my clothes.

‘Now batten down your hatches awhile, me mates, and listen to my stories of deeds so wild and so dreadful, seas so deep and so dark, leading to places so unimaginably remote and hellish, that they’ll be sure to make you shiver and tremble from top to toe;  stories, in fact, that’ll make you wish you’d not stepped one foot, this day, outside the warmth of your cosy morning bed.

Listen … ‘

He cleared his throat.

This blustering preamble was followed by several more minutes of rambling words, only a few of which I now remember, before finally, in his strongest and most intimidating manner, the man announced to us that, from this moment on, he would take over as captain of our little pirate ship.  And either we would obey him strictly and without question, or take ourselves directly to the dogs, thus saving him the trouble of having to kick us there himself.

‘First things first!’, he said.

‘We must get ourselves a hostage.  A pirate ship is not a proper pirate ship, for sure, without a hostage or two at which to poke and prod … ‘

Perhaps the others had sensed my lack of concentration:  my discomfort.  Or perhaps I was picked on because I was already the odd one out.  The boy chosen as the hostage, in any case, was me:  obviously.

‘For days now we’ve been at sea’, or so explained the new captain of our imaginary ship.

‘The waters have been squalling rough and often we’ve been up to our necks in wash, but still, with the sails well trimmed, we’ve made good progress and the boat has steadily picked out its lonely path across the wide open sea.  The winds have been good to us.  And likewise it was easy work, upon finally spotting a solitary treasure ship, to sneak up to her, as it were, in the misty quiet of the gently moving morning, then jump her and massacre all aboard before making off with a glittering ship load of stolen booty.

What delight!’

‘But in a moment of weakness, good Christian that I am’, he continued, ‘I decided to spare one soul from among the vanquished – for a while, at least.  And I chose this young swab ‘ere as our captive.  A prettier, more rosy-cheeked specimen I’ve never seen!  It seems you second my choice …  Am I right?’

‘Hoorah!’

‘Hoorah!’

The crew approved wholeheartedly …

Then the captain took up his story from where he’d stopped.

‘But now our ship’s in murky water’, he explained.  ‘We’re barely ghosting along the sea’s surface.  And the wind has almost entirely died and us soon to follow it, I shouldn’t wonder!’

A hushed silence.

‘And there are those on board – and who’s to say they’re wrong? – who believe that the ship has picked up a curse along its watery way, a curse in the shapely little form of this ‘ere boy, do you see?  And that’s why the ship’s in the doldrums, or so they say …

Now I might look a little bristly on the surface, and it’s true my tongue sounds sharp from time to time, but at heart you must know that I’m just a kind and gentle man, a good honest Christian, that’s me.  But these others – goodness nothing! – these others are really rough, I reckon (and after all these years at sea, trust me, I should know).  So rough they are, in fact, that they’ll do anything that suits them, whether I’m there to stay their hands or not, no difference, they’ll do just whatever they like – and not a second thought, mind you, not one.

Anyway:  these chaps reckon that unless our little lad here is tipped overboard, toppled out into the water, a little silvery splash in the moonlight, as it were, they’ll be no escaping from these damnable soupy waters and an end to us all, for sure!  Of course I’ve given it some thought:  weighed up the situation, this way and that.  And between you and me, I’ve half a mind to agree with them – they’ve got some good points, I reckon.  I mean, we was floating along so swimmingly until this little barrel of laughs dropped by to anchor us down, as it were, to the bottom of the sea.  Don’t you think?  That’s just a feeling, of course – and take no notice.  Grave matters such as these must be decided right and proper.  So we’ll put it to a vote …

And what says you, lads?

Is he to stay, to sink, or to swim?

And mind you tell me clearly now … ‘

I kept my arms at my sides.

But the vote was otherwise unanimous.

And a few moments later the crew had already pinioned me to the floor and were in the process of tying my wrists and ankles with cord (helpfully provided by one of the parents, now smiling, sadistically, against a far wall).  A smaller group was busy rolling up squares of cloth – one of these they used to gag me while another served as a blindfold.  The children needed little by way of encouragement.

And then they started chanting.

‘Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!’

They were having a wonderful time:  the best party they’d ever attended.

They didn’t seem to notice my discomfort:  it didn’t trouble them, if they did.

Nor the parents, apparently, who contented themselves with remaining as shadows in the background, the children permitted to do as they wished.

Did they think that I too was acting?

The poor, defenceless hostage …

Locked behind a façade.

‘Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!’

Desperate to get away, I could feel the fear, restless, in the pit of my stomach.

But how?

It seemed impossible:  my wrists and ankles were firmly fastened, my eyes blinded, my tongue tied.

‘Well, that’s that then:  your destiny’s clear, young chap, and that it is!’ exclaimed the captain.

‘The ugly lubber must walk the plank – and won’t he look pretty dropping down to the depths? – ha!  to hell with him … !

But wait!’

The captain stopped, looked around, perhaps seemed puzzled for a second, then brightened with an idea.

‘Wait’, he said again.

‘Why don’t we have ourselves some fun and first tickle him a bit?  Tickle him a tad with the prospect of a little light death …  It can’t do no harm, surely.  And it’d be mighty amusing.  So what says you, mates?’

Another roar of encouragement.

‘Hoorah!  Hoorah!’

‘I know:  we’ll pluck out his eyes and give him dead lights, two empty black points like holes in the head, all the more clearly to see the sight of death – do you agree, my hearties?’

And so it went on – so many voices – all laughing and screaming and jeering and mocking.

The children began to spin me around.

And then I heard the captain saying to put me to sleep …

They were going to gouge out my eyes, he explained, then throw them out in front of me to guide my way towards the water …

I felt dizzy, sick.

Although I could also hear a little voice at the back of my mind, saying:  everything will be all right;  it’s just a game;  keep calm;  don’t worry …

But then, in all the noise and the clamour, I lost it …

Spinning around and around:  around and around and around.

Going on and on …

Will it ever stop?

Will it ever stop?

And I ask myself.

Again and again.

Going on and on.

These voices …

‘Now then, lads, the deed is done and we can wake him – slowly, mind you, very slowly, take care for the blood!’

And my body stopped spinning, but not my head, which continued of its own accord, spiralling away from my neck …

‘All crew to posts and a double helping of rum for they who’s quickest!’, barked out the captain.

‘You there, hoist up the Jolly Roger!

You lot prepare the plank …

And the rest of you gather around …

Gather around to feast your eyes upon a boy’s last moments …

Look sharp!’

‘Ay, ay, sir!’

‘Ay, ay, cap’n!’

‘Now look you here’, the captain continued.

‘This chap’s like me, a good Christian fellow, I reckon, and he’s a gentleman to boot I wouldn’t wonder – just look at his fine clothes!  The least we can do is grant him a few final words, no?’

And so saying, he loosened my gag to let me speak.

But I’d nothing to say:  I just stood there, like a fool, cut off by my silence.

‘What?!’, roared the captain, ‘is that a dead eye on your shoulders, or what?  Where’s your voice, boy?  Now speak up good and proper I tell you!  Or else there’ll be trouble, d’you hear?’

But still I said nothing:  I couldn’t speak.

‘Here’s a queer one if ever there was.

It seems he needs his eyes to find his tongue, so his eyes he shall have, you mark my words – his left eye in his left hand and his right eye in his right – there you go!’

A small, roundish object, neither exactly soft nor hard, was then placed in each of my hands.

‘These are your eyes, my friend … ‘, jeered the captain.

‘I trust that now you’ll see everything:  is everything clear?’

He chuckled in a low, bass voice.

The children, too, were in hysterics.  And still now I hear the sound of their laughing.

‘What’s that?  Still can’t see, eh?  Well in that case try squeezing them, squeeze them tighter and tighter, go on … ‘

At this the captain took my hands in his and clenched them up until they were as tight as two small, hard balls.

And I wonder even now at his maliciousness.

But no one stopped him:  I heard no objections raised.

My hands hurt terribly.

But it was the sensation of jelly oozing vile through my fingers that most disturbed me.  That and the sound of the children squealing at the sight of what they believed to be blood:  blood dripping from my hands, my fingers …

‘These are your eyes!  These are your eyes!’ cried out the captain, weirdly jubilant.  ‘And now you’re as blind as I am! Ha!’

I listened to his words and understood what he said.

But at the same time I thought that he was wrong and that somehow I could still see my eyes.

They were there:  before me.

Terrifying in the darkness.

Looking out …

And as if I could see them there …

No longer in my hands.

No.

But rather suspended:  suspended in the air as if hovering, weightless – staring out like two sharp points of light in the darkness.

Blind, yes.

But staring out:  still staring out and seeing all.

But what I actually held in my hands, of course, known only, at first, to the adults in the group, were two tomatoes, rotten and smelly – their juicy insides and red, glossy pulp making the children scream, who seemed to believe what they saw, my sight as if extinguished before their eyes.

But I wasn’t sure.

And I didn’t know what was going on.

And for a while I thought that perhaps I was blind.

As if they really were my eyes.

My bloody, torn out eyes.

These eyes now to haunt me forever …

‘Do you hear my voice?’, cried out the captain, standing behind me now, some distance away.

Yes.  I hear you.  But in the darkness a voice sounds only in the mind.

‘Do you hear my voice?  Do you hear it?’, he repeated.

‘Or should I say:  do you see my voice?’

Hilarious, isn’t it?

‘Yes, yes, but don’t laugh, my shipmates … ‘, he went on.

‘It’s not quite as crazy as it sounds …

You see, it’s like this:  a blind man like me comes eventually to see voices as much as to hear them.  The voice becomes visual, takes form, a shape, a spectral shape vibrating in the centre of the mind.  And once that happens:  it’s really the end.  From then on they follow you everywhere:  these voices.  They’re like spirits.  Spirits:  have pity … ‘

And I could feel myself shivering.

‘But enough!  It’s time now, mates!  Are you ready?  Draw out your blades and we’ll prick this blind young worm, prick him good and proper, that we will!’

And the children returned to their chanting:

‘Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!  Walk the plank!’

When suddenly, the gag having now slipped down around my throat, I found my voice …

And I screamed out:  ‘You can’t make me – you can’t make me do it!  Not against my will … I shan’t die!  I shan’t!’

The captain and his crew merely laughed all the louder.

Until my wrists and ankles were at last untied and with one great shove I was thrown out into the garden, with all the other children tumbling on top of me, one after the other.

And that was that.

I was thrown overboard.

Drowned.

Dead.

 

Being at the bottom of a great pile of bodies I was, of course, the last to clamber up onto my elbows and to begin to brush myself down.  My blindfold had worked loose in the scrum and it seemed that I could see all right, to my relief.  I sat on the grass in a daze and watched as all the other children rushed indoors:  it was time to eat.  But instead of following them I simply picked myself up, walked around the edge of the house, and then passed out into the street.  A few yards from the house I broke into a run.  And then I kept on running.  I ran and I ran and I ran.  Until finally I felt certain I was alone:  that no one would find me.  Although at the party I’d not be missed:  I felt sure.  As if I were invisible.  Out of sight:  out of mind.

Eventually I slowed down to a walk and decided to head off for the woods.  I wanted to cry but I didn’t.  I couldn’t.  My eyes remained resolutely dry.  Open wide.  Staring.  Looking out at me wherever I turned, no matter what my direction.  Watching me.  As if there were eyes everywhere.  All eyes upon me:  no matter where I looked.  And insistent.  Demanding.  Everywhere.  My eyes.

And every few steps I would touch them with my fingers, wondering if they were indeed still there.  And again and again I ran my finger around their rims;  then pressed hard, hard upon the eyeballs, measuring in increments the gradual deepening of my pain.  And wondering whose eyes these really were:  were they really mine?  Or had mine been torn out?  Torn out, after all?  And then replaced.  To look out anew.  And everything seeming so strange.  So different.  As if the eyes alone had changed everything.

Who knows?

But I couldn’t stop myself:  I just kept on thinking about them.

The feel of them:  the look of them.

And I wondered what it would feel like to be behind the eye.  And to touch myself there.  To feel.  To know.  And then I imagined being behind them.  Looking back.  As if to see them from the other side, as it were.  And to see myself there.  To see myself upon the back wall of my own eye, as in a mirror.  And then to look out at my seeing self.  To see.  To know that I was there.

And I thought to myself that really I wanted to be blind:  to be blind, in fact, was really what I wanted.  So that then I’d know.  I’d know not to look back.  Or even if I did, even if I did look back, I’d know it wouldn’t matter.  I’d know it wouldn’t change anything.  The looking:  the looking back.  Looking:  lost.  And the darkness would remain.  And I’d be blinded, yes.  But still I’d carry on:  I’m sure.  Going on and on.  Going on and on forever.

And I wanted to cut them out, then and there.  By my own hand.  My eyes.  As if in punishment.  The looking.  Lost.

And I wanted to hold them in my hands and squeeze them and squeeze them and squeeze them until my hands were covered in their gore, my fingers dripping wet with my own blind blood.

I headed for the edge of the stream and then sat down upon its bank.

From a side pocket in my trousers I drew out a small Swiss army knife.

I’d recently stolen this knife:  I saw it and I knew that I had to have it and so I stole it.  Simple.  This wasn’t the first time that I’d stolen something, nor the last.  But I didn’t care.  Anyway:  I didn’t steal just any old thing, like some kids do, for the thrill of it.  I stole only the things that I really desired, the things that I felt that I really needed or wanted.  Nothing was given to me so if I did want something I had no other choice but to take it for myself, I had to steal it.  And steal it I did.  It was easy.  In any case, no one takes notice of you when you’re a child.  No one took notice of me, for example:  nobody paid me attention.  Children are invisible:  it’s as if no one sees you when you’re a child.  And I’m sure that no one saw me:  not really.

Children get away with murder.

(I’d heard someone say it).

I thought so too.

Murder.

 

Anyway.

This knife I soon thought of as my most prized possession.  It went with me everywhere.  And, whenever I could, I crept off in search of somewhere private where, pulling out all the different blades, the principal blade last of all, I could examine and clean them, test their sharpness on twigs and bark, keeping them glinting, bright, before again replacing them, thoughtfully, a little proud, one after another, snapping them shut.  I spent hours cutting up fruit.  An apple or a pear, for example, I would slowly peel, absorbed in concentration, into long, meandering spirals of skin, pleased at the ease with which a sharp blade cuts.  But I was happiest when I had some small animals to dissect:  sometimes I made use of some fish or a dead mouse and on at least one occasion, a dead bird, covered in fleas and maggots.  I cut these animals to pieces, hoping to rearrange them in some mysterious way so that they would come back to life, with luck, so that they would once more live …  But, although I liked to do it, although I liked the process of cutting things up into ever smaller and smaller pieces, it also made me feel at the same time very sad – as if this miserable, mutilated end were in some sense the inevitable conclusion to each and every life.  And that there was no hope:  there was nothing that could be done.

Cutting:  cutting …

The knife would have been confiscated, of course, if my parents or any of the teachers had seen it.  And then the same old questions …

Why do you this?

And why do you do that?

Why this?

Why that?

Why?

Why?

Why?

But I kept it secret, well hidden.

I looked at it now.  How beautiful it seemed.  Simple.  Clean.  And I pulled out the main blade with my fingernails and moved it around until it caught the little sun still sweating its weary way through the leafy canopy overhead.  And then I flashed the light back up into the sky and wondered if it might perhaps be possible to blind the sun in its own reflection.  And I loved the way that the silver blade sparkled like the twinkling surface of the water of the stream.  It was like a dance.

And reclining in the apparent loss of time, that sweet state of calm, I simply sat there for a while, a warm daze, watching the play of light as it leapt from place to place.

It’s such a pleasant thing for the eyes to behold the sun and truly the light is sweet …

And then I slept, a deep, dreamless sleep, for a change:  quiet like the passing of the hours.

Until gently, opening my eyes, slowly, I dragged myself up and looked again at my knife, still clutched there in my hand.

The silver blade was dull now but if I moved it a little it sparkled once more.

And it felt so nice to touch it.

And slowly, very slowly, I moved the silver metal of the blade along the contours of my fingers, up and down, up and down.  And I watched, transfixed, as the sharp point first appeared and then disappeared behind my hand.  The blade felt so cool and sensual to the touch, exciting in a way.  So that I unbuttoned the cuffs of my shirt sleeves then rolled them tightly to my elbows, exposing more of my skin.  The touch of the knife over the soft hair of my arms was delicious.  And now that my lower arms were bare, I could run it swiftly, with a quick switch of hands in the middle, from the elbow of my left arm to the elbow of my right and back again in one great arc.  I concentrated hard on making this movement flow.  Like the arc of a circle.  Up and down.  Up and down.

Then after a while I moved the knife to my face, pressing its broad, flat surface against my right cheek.  It felt so good.  Like a cool breeze.  Or a caress, perhaps.  Slowly, so slowly.  And I drew the knife down my cheek and under my chin and then up to my left eye and across my forehead, as if removing my face, cutting it out.  And then I skirted the point of the blade around the oval of my eyes.  First the right eye:  then the left.  The right, the left.  And again and again and again until finally I could see nothing but a blur of silver light criss-crossing before my eyes in a figure of eight.

‘I will cut out my eyes!’ I said to myself

‘I will cut out my eyes!’

I said.

Over and over again.

Like a chant.

‘I will cut out my eyes!’

And then I looked up.

I was crying now.

And I thought I couldn’t bear it.

This feeling of pain.

Going on and on.

I wanted it to stop.

That’s all.

And so I started scratching at my arms.

Scratching, slashing.

Then slowly, always slowly, I slid the knife along the back of my left hand, from a little below the wrist to the nail of the forefinger.  And then again.  Slowly, always slowly at first.  Again and again.  It felt so good I couldn’t stop.  Faster and faster.  The left, the right.  I couldn’t stop.  I couldn’t stop myself, that’s all.  I couldn’t hold myself back.  Not more.  Like a frenzy.  The cuts.

And my eyes opened.

I could feel it.

The pain.

At last …

The joy.

And I was crying.

Crying, laughing.

At last!

At last!

And I was crying.

Strange, but …

Smiling.

Like a weeping wound.

The sound of my laughter …

And I sat there and watched as my tears and my blood mingled together, dripping down towards the stream, my eyes at the same time turning red against their shadowy reflection, two swirling pools in the water.  And I sat staring, still like the summer air, trying hard to understand, but failing.  I tried to look up:  to raise my head.  And watched as a pair of watery eyes floated away with the current.

And still I looked.  I kept on looking and looking.  And I didn’t want it to stop.  Not ever.  But what I wanted, instead, was just for it to go on and on.  This moment.  With the stream flowing quietly past.  My thoughts floating away with the water.  My eyes …  And the smell of the ferns and the trees.  And the sounds of the birds singing high up in the branches above me:  the woodland animals surrounding me.  And the fading light.  Gentle.  Forgiving.  The day imperceptibly giving way, at last, to night.

I began to feel faint.

And it was a while before I felt strong enough to get up from the ground.  At first I just leaned blankly against a tree, mopped my bleeding hands with a handkerchief.  I tried to brush the dirt from my trousers but with little success.  And with my arm I wiped my face.  And to begin with I turned my back towards the sun, and then slowly I began to walk away, snubbing it, back towards the direction from which I’d come.  But my shadow grew nervous and jerky, appearing to pull away from me as I walked:  and my eyes grew tired as I watched its neurotic dancing, leaping around on the ground.  I stopped and looked back.  Nothing.  Just the heavy darkness dripping slowly down:  the night gradually forming from the day.  And I turned and walked now towards the sunset.  And I felt so pale.  But also sure:  sure to walk forever … the light, receding, like … like a memory.  A memory of childhood, perhaps.  A memory of a home that never was …

And the evening, sweating, seemed more humid than the day had been.  And my head felt heavy as I walked, waiting, listening out, the thunder and the lightning.  But I’d stopped thinking, at least.  Idly, I mean.  I couldn’t think:  not really.  I was just walking.  One foot before the other.  Still going on.  Going on and on.  And over the stream.  And then out of the woods:  beyond the grass and the flowers and the trees.  And then out, at last, into the hard and real.

To the place where I lived.

‘Home’.

Was that it?

And it was a place where the sky seemed no longer clear and blue, as it had been, for a while, earlier in the day, but like the night into which I walked, grey and ragged with the smoky hopes of humankind.  And a place where the air seemed thick with the bragging roar of souped-up cars and with the noise of screaming, brawling children, coming out to play with the darkness.

And where am I now?

They ask me …

I am not sure:  I am not told.

‘D’you wan’ a fight?

D’you wan’ a fight then?

I’ll fuckin’ give you a fight.

I’ll fuckin’ … ‘

Yes.

This bloody life.

Bring your knives!

And come out to play, my children …

Why not?

Why ever not?

Cut it out!  Cut it out!

Silence.

And the homes here are made from ashy breeze-blocks:  the windows smashed then boarded up.

And the streets are from tarmacadam.

Fuck:  this hurts.

Fuck:  this really hurts.

Fuck.

 

I felt weak, sick, arriving home.

I wanted to be alone.

To sleep.

But instead I came face to face with my parents:  they were waiting for me, looking mean and unforgiving.

I thought to hurry past them, behaving as if all were as it should be.

A mistake.

They’d anticipated this:  blocked my path.

But I wanted so badly for this day to be finished and over …

And I wanted my room:  a space for myself alone.

And there I am.

Collapsing into a dreamy oblivion on the floor:  I’m like a heap of old clothes, enjoying the luxury, for a while, of forgetting.

The blood …

I was thinking about the blood.

And I tried to keep my hands deep inside my pockets, my left hand still very wet, dripping with blood, the right likewise bloody, clasped tightly around my precious knife in a hard, clenched fist.  And I tried to look casual, indifferent.  No doubt I failed.  I’d too little strength for dissemblance.  And I must have looked terrible.  I certainly felt pretty awful as I stood there, feeling awkward yet again, unsure as to what to say or do, wishing myself away, elsewhere.

I gazed at the floor and imagined there a circle around my feet, an incision in the flesh, cutting me off, a mouth, open but dark, empty, a hole.

The atmosphere was heavy:  an ugly scene clearly imminent.  And I felt myself swaying from side to side as if soon to topple over …  I thought I might fall.

Would the ground open up and swallow me?

Drag me down to its depths …

And at first my parents were too angry, too distracted, to notice much about my actual presence.  It was as if, fretting so long over my absence, they couldn’t quite believe that now I was actually there.

But I was there.

And not only my father but also my mother, extraordinarily, began to rant and shout while I looked on.

And I suppose that it might have been my forlorn appearance or the sight of my crumpled spirit cowering at the back of my eyes, but I doubt it.  I am inclined to think that it was rather their anger itself that saved me, on this occasion, at least, from yet another severe beating from my father:  a beating that I would otherwise have expected without fail.  No.  Their anger was too intense this time, as frightening to them as much as to me.  It made them cautious.  And it drove them to guard a distance, discreet, between us for fear, I suppose, of what between them they might actually do to me.

If their hands reached me …

If they really lost control.

And I could see the arguments and counter-arguments blazing fierce behind their eyes, their fingers twitching as they struggled to place a limit on their anger.

And my parents didn’t touch me:  they didn’t come near me.

But still …

I wanted to push them back.

And the pupils of their eyes had now shrivelled into tiny stabs of dark light, hieroglyphs dotted in precise black ink, pricked, painted, the milky white stone of the eyeballs, now hard, heavy, like marble.

And their eyes seemed so sharp, cutting me again and again with their looks.

‘Where have you been?’, asked my father, his voice rumbling towards me in a low, volcanic grumble.

‘Where have you been?’

‘Where on earth have you been?’, echoed my mother, she herself quite happy, on this occasion, to add to the commotion.  And she looked wild, like a banshee, her voice screeching reluctantly into sound …

‘Yes.  Your mother’s very upset today and it’s all because of you …’, said my father.  ‘We’ve both been worried sick!  So?!!  What’s your answer?  Where on earth have you been for all this time?  We thought something really awful had happened to you … that you’d been kidnapped or killed!  We’ve called the police!  How could you do it?  How could you just wander off like that?  How could you?  And what were you thinking?  What on earth were you thinking about?!  And don’t you care that … ‘

Bedlam.

All hell broke loose.

Although I wasn’t really there to witness it.

I felt so absent.

Just the sound of angry voices rolling in from far away …

And my eyes seeming sore and unfocused.

And then tears:  full of tears, once more.

As if I dissolve into water, melt away.

My eyes first of all.

A liquid looking.

And it’s hard to see.

Like a film on the eye …

A blur.

A blindness.

Wave upon wave.

The voices.

But still I listened.

And I kept on listening, straining my ears.

I kept on listening until I heard a voice, rising higher, clearer than the others.

‘Get out of my sight!’

‘Get out of my sight!’

Do you hear?

Yes.

Yes:  I hear you.

We all did.

And the house suddenly hushed:  not only quiet, but as if unsure of itself, hesitant, waiting.

Slowing down …

And the voices fell silent.

My parents still, like statues.

As if at last they’d seen me.

And they’d caught a glimpse of my eyes:  my eyes drained of blood and my face now turning yellow and green, my hands red.

And the blood.

(A painting).

A pool of blood, red, beautiful upon the carpet …

I close my eyes.

I close my eyes and try to sleep.

I must have fainted, I suppose.

I forget.

I have no memory.

For once I have no memory.

And only later did I learn a little of what had happened.

I was put to bed with a fever:  a running temperature of over 100° – 102, 103, 104, 105, 106 …  As if I were burning up, slowly evaporating into the air.  And for several days I barely bubbled below consciousness, writhing sweaty in my bed, tossing and turning like a lunatic.

No one seemed to understand the sudden nature of this illness, if illness it was.

What caused it?

This malady:  this madness?

I’d always been nervous and excitable:  no more than usual of late.  Not, at any rate, that anyone had noticed.

But the cuts …

And all the blood.

The blood on my hands.  The carpet …

Was that it?

A sickness in the blood …

My father thought it through.

I didn’t mix well, all right.  I was shy, what one might call ‘a loner’, the word pronounced with a note of marked distaste, of course, as if to emphasize all the dark implications otherwise hidden in its meaning.  And most of my time I spent alone.  And either my head was lost in a book or I was staring dreamily into space:  both activities now seeming suspicious, they naturally went against me.  Sometimes it looked as if I were talking to myself – either that or I was singing.  And I was forever talking nonsense:  telling stories and the like.  But in the real world, the world of others, I was a disaster.  I had to be pushed to greet people in the street, for example, even with those who passed – nominally, at least – as friends.  And in company I was similarly hopeless, lacking in even the most modest of social skills.  To utter a word was rare.  And I became solemn and withdrawn:  dark like a storm.  It wasn’t normal:  what more could one say?

But to return to the immediate situation.

I’d been to a party which I’d left early.  I’d not told anyone of my intentions.  I’d disappeared.  Where did I go?  Had I got lost?  No one seemed to know.  But I’d also managed to cut numerous deep grooves into my hands like an apprentice butcher opening slabs of young, tender meat.  I had bled ‘like a stuck pig’, as my father later described it, with all his skill in picturesque description, ‘turning as pale as a ghost’.

So I was unwell, yes, but, more troubling, more sinister, was I sick, was I really sick?

This question presented itself as critical and, in the minds of all who counted – not only my disappointed father but also in the eyes of my mother, herself quite mad – the answer was:  yes, undoubtedly.  I must be, they reasoned:  there was (naturally) no other explanation.  So they ran with it:  an explanation that in reality explained nothing, a diagnosis by default, as it were, vague and imprecise.  But it served its purpose.  And certainly my father latched on to it with gratitude (it was the same dismissive reasoning that he used in the case of my mother):  it made the situation seem more secure and diminished the need for further thought, as if rendering it redundant.

And they believed that I was dying.

This seems crazy to me now.

But they too were crazy.

Although it’s true that I was weak:  very weak.

And at one stage seemed to weaken with each discarded minute, as if my nerves, like poison ivy, had discovered a way to reach out through the cracks in my hands, slowly to strangle me, cutting off the little blood still flowing in my veins, turning me as pale as death.

Dying in a fever of lost blood …

Our wonderful family doctor soon disabused them.

The cuts on the hands and arms were very nasty, he said, and I had lost a lot of blood, but its flow had now been stanched, the wounds washed and disinfected and then stitched.

I had developed a severe fever – chilled through shock, perhaps – my blood poisoned …

I was very weak, of course, and probably my body’s defence systems weren’t working as they should but, with appropriate action, a course of antibiotics, the right aftercare, there was no reason, he went on, to be unduly pessimistic.  The fever would no doubt break before long, almost certainly within a few more days, and in any case the drugs should tackle any pneumonia still lurking in the lungs:  I should soon show signs of at least a little improvement.  And at this stage I should be well wrapped up and given plenty of warm drinks, if I could manage them.  But for the time being, at least, the windows should be open and the room kept cool, I mustn’t be bundled up in blankets and bedclothes until my temperature had dropped, and I might like an occasional cold flannel lain against my forehead.  It was a good idea, he added, to keep a watch on me at all times.  He (the doctor) should be alerted if there were any signs of deterioration in my condition – although he didn’t expect any, of course, and there was no need to panic.

He’d call again in a week or two.

 

And do you remember all this?

Do you really remember it?

Cutting:  cutting …

I’m not sure.

I don’t know.

The blood …

But I feel my finger twitching …

A finger running slowly along the length of who I am.

And I say again:  it’s like this that I trace the lines of my memory, walking back into my past …

Going:  going on.

My memory.

 

And I ask you:

Is it a trap or a form of escape?

As I lie here, still, unmoving.

This room, for example …

I call it my room.

But is this really my room?

It seems so strange, alien.

As if I recognize nothing.

And don’t understand.

Why I’m here, for example.  I don’t understand …

And the place is such a mess.

It makes me gloomy as hell it’s so depressing.

As if it’s a place where things collapse, topple over and fall.

Myself, for example.

Now.

And I can feel the floor, cold, hard, uneven, against my legs and arms, my back.

It gives no comfort.

No comfort for the fallen.

But it’s better than nothing.

It’s better than nothing:  I guess.

I’ve in any case not the strength to stand:  I’ve had enough of being vertical …

Although the old habits still die hard.

And it takes strength to give up.

I should know.

As I struggle to lift my head …

Lift your head.

Lift your head.

Just once …

But there’s little to see.

And even the most basic signs of life seem somehow missing …

No proper bed, for example.

Just some damp smelling blankets, looking rather forlorn, abandoned, all huddled up in a corner.

And beside them a pile of tattered clothes, unwashed:  still holding together but more from habit than careful use.

And the same could be said of those leather boots by the kettle, well worn, they’ve seen some miles …

The boots of a real gentleman.

Ha!

A gentleman of the road, maybe …

That leather sack.

And then there are the books, of course.

I pick one up at random … a novel …

The tops of some of the pages have been bent over at the corner.

And there is writing in the margins.

I open it and read …

 

‘Whenever he played he drew towards him animals, bushes, meadows, mountains bent over to hear, streams left their beds, the north wind froze not to miss a note, the birds fell silent, even the sirens stopped singing and listened.  When his beloved died he followed her down to the underworld, charmed Persephone with his playing, from the eyes of Death himself he wrung five or six iron tears, and he hypnotised his dog.  Surely every poet every musician every charlatan tries like him to bring back the dead.  The one condition was that he should not turn back or look behind, that he should walk ahead without turning round.  On the face of it this was an easy condition, an obvious security measure, to protect the privacy of the underworld.  Hades, however, that iron-teared rhymester, knew his victim’s mind:  the wise man’s eyes may be in his head, but not so the poet’s.  A poet’s eyes are in the back of his neck.  The minstrel always plays facing backwards.  And so, as black turned to grey, his arms were drawn to embrace her but she was no longer there.  To play or to touch.  Either or.’

 

A poet.

A musician.

A charlatan.

In any case …

 

So many books.

Piles and piles of old books:  poems, plays, novels, histories.

There are books all over the place, literally everywhere:  old and musty, covered in dust, grimy, silent.

Virgil, Ovid, Milton, Nerval, Verlaine, Rilke …

So many lives …

However did I find the time to read them?

Sometimes I wish I’d never bothered.

And I dreamt of drowning them:  I dreamt of drowning all my books.

So quiet and reproachful.

But really:

What was the point?

At the end one knows nothing.

As if …

Well:  it’s like always being back at the beginning, isn’t it?

You try to get something done, to make a little progress, to do your best.

Perhaps you slog your guts out.

And then, when you’re done, too exhausted to keep going, you finally slump down, wipe the sweat from your forehead, look around.

Only …

You’re back at the beginning.

Again and again.

As if you’ve never really moved.

And yet you felt sure to go on.

Sure of it.

Absolutely.

And …

Keep going.

You said.

Keep going.

Going on and on …

Like a cruel practical joke.

A trick of time.

Is this what it amounts to?

All of it?

And look around you for a minute:  just look around you.

Has it really come to this?

Has it really?

The songs of my room …

 

Do you remember?

 

Yes.

I remember.

 

And I rose up to open to my beloved;  and my hands dripped with myrrh and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh …

 

And all the time I was only dreaming:  I am only dreaming.

‘I’m only dreaming!’  That’s what I want to say – if only I could find a voice.  ‘I’m only dreaming.  I’m only dreaming.  Don’t worry …  It’s all a dream!’

But I’m feverish, I know.  And anxious.  And it’s a struggle to concentrate, to focus my eyes:  like grappling with a dream.  And I feel as if I’m bleeding:  red, bloody sweat.  As if I’m breathing, dying.  I’m in the darkness.  A nightmare.  And then I hear shouting:  ‘Let me out!  Let me out!’  But there’s no response.  ‘Let me out!  Let me out!’  Going on and on like so many fragments from a dream, so many moments from memory.

And then a door opens and I enter a chamber of red, swirling blood:  hot and sticky.  And everything appears to be turning and spinning.  This red flowing life as if heaving against its limits, erupting into the unknown.  And my eyes are lost in the blood.  But still I hear breathing:  life.  As if there’s a nearby body, waiting.  And then I begin to see.  Although my seeing is formless:  formless in the sensation, bright, of flowing, a maelstrom.  And only gradually do I distinguish arcs and lines which grow slowly together to form here a tiny leg, here an arm, a hand.  And I watch as this flesh thrashes around in a pool of dark chaos.  It’s like some jerk dance choreography:  breathtaking, beyond belief.  A sudden upheaval, maddening in its solitary focus:  the lonely, shuddering movements of a life staged in miniature.  Like a convulsion of the flesh:  an explosion of matter.  A truly protean performance.

And still I hear a voice, shouting:  ‘Let me out!  Let me out!’

And another door has opened.  But I’m hesitant:  reluctant to pass through.  Not sure.  And I’m anxious, drawn out:  taut.  And I can feel myself eroding, being slowly washed away.  Repeatedly diluted:  becoming transparent, invisible.  Like a lost beginning.  A fading past.  And still I hear a voice screaming and screaming, a thunderous noise as if from some vast great mouth:  a mouth expanding, growing ever larger and larger.

I don’t know what to do.

And I feel my heart pounding:  my blood is in a riot and my eyes as if fit to burst.

And I feel as if I’m being pushed around:  pushed and pulled this way and that, drawn out, dragged along against my will.  And I’m trembling, lonely, the darkness:  peering out at the blurred, flickering shadows, the play of dancing red.  And I feel so hurried:  I’m just not sure.  And it’s like a terrible dream.  A fever.

But I’m able to breathe now, at least.

And I open my mouth and gasp at the air as in a blind panic.

Panting, heaving.

As if drowning in the air.

Breathing in, breathing out.

Breath after breath going on and on …

‘Let me out!  Let me out!’

Until finally I step forward.

And enter.

 

At first I’m blinded.

The bright electric lights:  harsh and unforgiving.

But as my eyes slowly adjust I discover that I’ve walked out into a long, long corridor, several metres wide:  it continues for as far as my eyes can see.  The floor is of well polished parquet and the walls whitewashed and bare.  And large, shoulder-height windows cut through the right-hand wall at regular intervals.

And I see a line of well-ordered people:  people stretched out, on this side of the corridor, in a row, and all have their backs to me, appearing entirely absorbed in looking out at whatever it is that they see.

It doesn’t matter.

And I begin to walk.

These figures, absent, their gaze elsewhere, ignore me:  men and women, boys and girls, their faces all mixed up, lost in longing and disappointment, sadness and anger.  Only occasionally will one of the figures turn around:  to look for a moment at my eyes, passively and with no sign of recognition, as if really they see nothing.  Then I myself try to work out what they’re looking at:  peering over their shoulders I’d like to see what it is, out there, that’s so fascinating.  But each time I look I see only the darkness of the night, like nothing at all.  It’s bizarre.

At one window, at which a child is standing, I’m able to see quite well.  The child – a boy, I think – is shorter than I am and, standing behind him, I can look out above his head.  I pause for a while and concentrate on keeping my eyes still:  I really try to see.  But still it’s like losing yourself in darkness, or watching the night as it creeps slowly through the small hours of sleep.  Although eventually I do see something:  the black shadow of my own face looking out from within the darkness of the window.  I look at my eyes:  they appear to be bulging and bloody.  As if hanging in mid-air:  lost and suspended in the night.  And I think I hear a voice.  ‘Are these really your eyes?’, it asks.  ‘Are these really your eyes that come to see?  Are they?’

Running along the length of the opposite wall, one after another at precisely the same interval, are a seemingly infinite number of doors.  Each door is identical to all the others:  plain white except for a small metallic lever positioned at the left side.  I’ve already passed many, although …

I don’t know whether to open them or not.

I keep on walking.

And as I walk, I listen to the regular tapping of my shoes and, except when one or other of my companions turns suddenly to stare at me, my eyes are kept firmly to the front.  This place is unnerving.  It’s as silent as a morgue.  And I hate it.  It feels like a place where nastiness creeps in corners, waiting for its moment.  It’s like a madhouse or a hospital:  myself a patient.  Drugged, dreaming …

And I keep on walking.

But the monotony begins to get to me, playing on my shattered nerves.

So that suddenly I veer to the left, in desperation literally falling upon one of the doors.

I push down on the door lever, slowly, cautiously, feeling it’s wrong:  it’s something terribly wrong.

And I look around at the line of people trailing away as far as I can see:  they trail both back from where I’ve come from and on in the other direction.

And I feel sure that they’ll turn:  all these people.  At any moment they’ll turn, together as one, to confront me:  their thousands of eyes, gazing, united in a single staring look, reflecting back at me my guilt, an accusation.  But as I stop and listen:  not one of them moves.  Not one.

I look at my hand on the door lever.

Gradually it pushes down, the latch parting slowly from the striker plate.

My hand, so vivid, so separate, apart.

The lever is depressed as far as it will go.

And I pause.

I’ve forgotten my purpose.

And then I realize that I’m not breathing.

I close my eyes for a second:  make a conscious effort to relax, slowly breathing in, slowly breathing out.

And then quietly the door opens.

And I enter.

 

I meet a pair of eyes and jump back, startled.

They are dark:  two smouldering coals set deep into the skull, burning in the head.

I look more closely.

Old eyes:  I don’t know how old.

So many things to see …

The crow’s feet hopping from here to there …

Cuts in time.

I look more closely.

The eyes are so intense:  two tiny iron roses opening only a fraction to reveal, at their centre, tight circles of glittering black colour, absence of colour, hematite, seemingly layered like a secret, arrested at the moment of full blossom.

The weather has worn it well:  ravaged by age and now sagging and ashen, this face, dried and wrinkled, like the skin of a withered old prune.

But how to describe it?

The nose, for example, appears, roughly speaking, to have been stapled on, attached loosely, an approximation, left dangling from the face.  Its colour is an alarming aggregate of purple, blue and red, sore with bursting blood vessels.  It falls from the eyes to the mouth like sloppy stitching joining one to the other.  The chin is no more defined:  it echoes down into the neck, like leaves in a book.  The forehead, too, is cumbersome:  dense like a heavily lined manuscript.  The hair is thin and wiry, a pale shade of grey as if covered in a patina of dust, not quite silver or white.  The mouth is hard, tight.  And for the moment is still.

The eyes look out at me.

I feel trapped:  caught in an avenue of looking, locked there, no escape.  And what I see is an old, old woman sat hunched up and crooked backed upon a stool.  She’s bent almost double.  I look at her hands, which are gnarled and twisted, distorted almost entirely out of shape.  And watch as her fingers fidget, incessantly, like the last nervous twitches of an animal just dead.  She’s dressed entirely in black, as if in mourning.  And sits surrounded by toys, wool men and rag dolls, little tin people and discarded teddy bears, threadbare and unloved, childless, antiquated.

Is it a child who is dead?

I wonder.

I don’t enter the room, not fully, but remain standing in the doorway, unsure of myself, waiting.

For a moment my eyes break loose, darting around, shuttering open and closed, a hidden camera snatching random impressions.  It seems a sombre space.  And cold.  Deathly cold.  There are no windows that I can see and a corner lamp provides the only light, but weakly.  Although it’s not a large room.  Thick, heavily patterned carpet, old-fashioned, covers the modest floor space.  And to the woman’s right are some items of furniture, hidden beneath layers of white dust sheet:  their purpose on vacation.  Occupying one whole wall to her left, I notice a dark oak cabinet, standing sullen like a portent.  On its right hand side is a wardrobe, door left slightly ajar, its small black key still resting in the lock.  On its other side are drawers, waist height, forming a flat working surface on which rest photographs, four or five, in crumbling wooden frames.  They are sepia and badly faded.  A couple of the photographs are individual portraits of children;  one is a wedding picture of bride and groom, taken as the couple stride confidently from the church, the bride resplendent in white lace and veil, the groom beaming proud in his top hat and tails;  then next to it there’s one of those starched, nineteenth century family shots, where everyone looks like a cardboard cut out, poor imitations of themselves, gloomy and stiff.

The cabinet itself is divided into two halves by a full length mirror cutting vertically through its middle.  I shiver as my eyes look up at it, sensing that there’s something not right in what I see, that in some way it’s peculiar.  It takes me a few moments to realize what’s wrong.  The old woman’s absent:  suddenly invisible, as if the mirror can’t see her.  I look back to the centre of the room, half expecting her to have disappeared.  But no.  She sits there still:  still as before.  Still, that is, except for her eyes:  her eyes seem continually to be moving, so vivid, so alive.  Her eyes which draw me back to her as I stand there, staring.

She speaks.

‘You are too early’, she says.

‘You are another too early’.  Her voice is low and hard to hear, cracking, from time to time, like her leathery old skin.

‘It’s as if you are dead before you are born.  Like a shadow of a might have been.  Dead before born.  A spirit.  Like a ghostly trick of light and time, a phantom glimpsed in a moment, passing, then lost, rejected.  Born.  But born too early.  And almost without skin:  transparent, vulnerable.  Like a pure spirit.  As if invisible.  Uncanny.  And born to die.  And you may ask:  was I born?  Was I really born?  You may ask …  But I can see you, don’t forget!  And I say that you are learning love.  Go on … ‘

She laughs.

A horrible, raucous laughter, like the sound of a crying bird, her mouth suddenly open wide, gaping.

And I can’t stand it.  It’s driving me mad.

And I can feel it scratching away at the insides of my ears, picking at my brain, this laughter …

I summon my strength and turn away …

The door slams loud behind me.

And then I run:  I run as fast as I possibly can, sweating, shivering.

And, as I run, all the figures who’d previously stood impassive spin around, around and around, laughing, shrieking, reaching their arms out towards me as I pass:  they want to grab me, seize me, tear me, rip me.  And the faster I run, the louder, the wilder their laughter.  I have to get away.  I must, I must!

I seize the lever of another door and push down hard, falling through it into the room on the other side, panting.

But the scene that greets me is the same as before.

The same deep, penetrating eyes.

The same hard, worn features.

The same wiry hair and firmly pursed lips.

I try to gather my thoughts:  the woman looks at me more kindly this time, the ghost of a smile brightening, for a moment, her face.

She picks herself up from her stool.

Slowly hobbles around the room.

A dust cover pulled from a chair.  A gesture …

‘Sit down.’

She brings out a table from behind the door:  two mugs of brown tea and a plate full of biscuits.

It’s all utterly surreal:  a dream.  But also frightening, sinister.

I think to plunge the point of a long sharp needle again and again and again into an arm, a leg, an eye.

And don’t you hear the screaming?

Wake up!

Wake up!

This can’t be happening …
I’m too tense to participate actively in this absurd drama so simply sit there, waiting, watching.

The woman returns to the centre of the room.  Slowly she gathers together the black fabric of her dress, folding it around her legs, and then, gently lowering herself to her stool, she sits, like a bird on its nest.  She helps herself to several biscuits, dipping them bit by bit, one by one, into her tea.  She shovels them into her mouth, entirely absorbed, crumbs beginning to speckle her pale lips.

After a while she lifts her head and looks at me:  she looks at me as if unsure of who I am or what I’m doing there.

‘I love this little game!’, she says eventually.

‘As a child I played it everyday, in the late afternoon, after school.  I loved it best in the winter, when I would sit with my mother and grandmother before the fire, my toes curled up in the soft, thick pile of the hearthrug, my hands wrapped warmly around the steaming hot tea.  None of us would ever speak:  no, I don’t think we ever spoke.  At least:  I can’t recall the words.  We just sat there watching the fire, spitting and crackling, dunking biscuits, munching, drinking tea.  Do you remember?’

I must have looked blank, uncomprehending.

‘No’, she says.  ‘I suppose you wouldn’t.  I’m so sorry, my dear:  so sorry.’

I don’t get her meaning but say nothing.

She doesn’t elaborate.

Silence.

‘I always saw it as a challenge’, she at last goes on.  ‘The game of dunking your biscuits, I mean.

The challenge was to get the biscuit into your mouth before it became too soggy.  Occasionally you’d be too slow, of course, and then the end of a biscuit would break off abruptly and fall back into the sugary pale brown water which in those days passed for tea.  And then I’d laugh:  what laughter!  Or mother would.  Or grandmother.  We always did.  One of us always laughed.  Or someone.  But it was terribly common, of course – this game.  That’s why we sat in private before the hearth.  We’d never have dared to be so silly in front of guests:  not on your life!  And with guests there would have been proper cups, with saucers, of course, and … ‘

‘Were there guests?’, she asks abruptly, breaking her train of thought.

‘I don’t remember … ‘

She seems increasingly oblivious to me:  talking on and on in a world entirely her own.  I let her ramble on uninterrupted:  talk, talk, talk, yak, yak, yak!  The words fly around in the air, ejected between the gaps in her teeth, like spittle, bubbling foam, white on the ground.  And to the ears the words are chatter:  jabbering in the mind.

In any case I don’t know what to say.

I don’t know what to think.

‘Sooner or later it always happened’, she continues.  ‘Bits always fell back.  Always.  You knew that eventually it would happen.  As if that were the whole point.  As if the whole thing were predictable, entirely inevitable:  sad really.  And then I’d watch the little bits floating around in the teacup.  They reminded me of so many tiny, bloated corpses, I remember.  Too slow, too late.  “Plop!” and gone.  And then I’d drink down the whole cup in one go:  gulping it down until at last I reached the sludge.  The brown sludge was always lurking at the bottom.  It was always there:  the sludge.  I found it fascinating.  Childishness, I suppose.’

She looks up at me now:  a look which strikes me as inappropriate, incongruous.  It’s as if her eyes are still elsewhere and her mind still wandering, fragmented in memory.  For several seconds she holds me in this fierce stare:  wondering who she is, who I am.  Her eyes are so bright and piercing, her look like being caught in brilliant, blinding lights, that I feel under pressure to respond to her in some way, her gaze as if sufficient in itself to loosen the tongue.  But I’m really at a loss:  at a loss as to what to say or how to act.  And all I can feel is the force of her scrutiny:  it presses down upon my eyes which squint as if in pain.  I try to look encouraging, nod my head, feel foolish.

‘And then I told them’, she says, moving closer.

‘I told them that you’re a mistake.  You’re painful to the eyes, I said:  you’re like a distorted mirror.  And I told them that the reason that you see so many shadows ghosting about you is because you yourself are a shadow.  This is the reason why.  And you are not who you think you are.  This too I told them.  No.  You are a fraud, an impostor.  Worse:  you are nothing.  A nobody.  A no one.  You had no name then, nor now:  and you shall never have one.  You’ll be forever nameless:  a missing identity.  Do you see?’

And then again her laughter …

‘You’re mad!’, I’m thinking.  ‘You’re absolutely mad!’

And yet I’m not quite sure.

‘Oh don’t think that, my dear’, she says, her voice sounding spiteful, as if reading my thoughts.

‘These memories are, after all, your own:  your very own!’

And she stands up from her stool and suddenly lurches towards me, without warning, her eyes now venomous.

But I’m too fast on my feet, a voice urging escape …

Run!

Run!

And in the blinking of an eye I move from one horror to the next.

And still I’m lost:  a feverish nightmare.

And still I’m lost.

I’m afraid.

And the corridor seems darker and narrower now:  the figures at the opposite wall drawing nearer, closing in for a kill.  The transformation in their behaviour is complete:  like machines slowly firing into life, they appear suddenly fully animated, fully alive.  But their expressions are hateful, nasty:  their eyes united in murderous intent.  And it’s as if they’ve discovered a collective horror of me which before laid dormant:  so now they wish to act quickly, en masse.  And they stamp their feet in an aggressive, intimidating rhythm, as if intending to march right over me, trampling me under foot.

But in fact their movement is limited, for the present.

It’s a flow of bodies moving back and forth, back and forth, like waves.

And together they reach for me, their arms outstretched and their hands open and grasping.

But, although they push and shove me, clawing at my skin and clothes, they never once take hold of me with a firm grip:  I keep on moving, little by little, or tumble on, rather, as I’m tossed between them, this way and that.  And it’s as if something restrains them, holding them back.  They move to seize me but, having touched me, almost immediately recoil, jolting away as if in pain or disgust.  And their eyes, too, seem to mirror this sequence:  they become brighter as together they look, hungry and aggressive, drawing me in as a feast to their eyes, when suddenly they look down towards their feet, their eyes averted, shrinking back, nervous, hesitant.  Likewise their shouting and screaming, which crescendos to a peak as those coming closest manage to push or grab at me, at the last moment drops suddenly away to nothing.

But it’s still alarming.

And each time another assault seems imminent, I’m convinced that finally now I’ll go under, crushed beneath the weight of all these bodies, swallowed up by their desire.  And I can feel myself sweating and shaking:  my legs are like jelly as I try, in vain, to run forwards.  And my nerves are in mayhem:  torn violently apart.

And my mind, too, is a chaos of fragmented thoughts.

And my only serious and recurring desire is to give up:  to abandon any residual wish to live and simply to lie down and die.  And although my legs still struggle after movement, my imagination has already raced ahead to this longed for moment.  It watches as I curl myself up into a tight, whimpering ball, waiting, shivering in resignation, for the arrival of an end, at last.

And as I wait I watch the eyes.

Scores of sharp eyes drawing nearer and nearer, piercing my body, biting, like arrows, then further, deeper into its flesh, like a fall of ice, a crashing weight, bruising me into a pulp, wearing me down, the gritty pricks of abuse, the hatred.

And this is hateful, I think to myself, over and over again:  this is hateful, this is hateful!

And I’m engulfed by the madness.

And it cannot go on:  it must stop.

As if …

I close my eyes:  I disappear.

If only …

 

But then a voice speaks.

A voice.

Another.

So that I throw my head around, looking, my eyes wild, terrified.

And I scan the files of shouting heads, hoping to spot the speaker, but my eyes are almost immediately lost:  all the mouths mechanically opening and shutting, opening and shutting one after the other, while my ears hear nothing above the chorus of blood-thirsty screams.

Except that there it is again:  this same quiet voice.

It seems to speak from somewhere at the back of my head, saying quietly:  ‘It’s a nightmare, that’s all:  a dreaming fever.  And you must go on, you shall … ‘

But I can feel the blind panic still boiling away:  boiling away in my blood as if to erupt at any second.  And I don’t know what to do.  My eyes spin urgently around my head, looking out for some way to escape, to get away.  And I’m desperate:  I long to block out these horrid visions.

And yet again I fling myself at a door, violently shoving it open, as if my intention all along had been to walk right through it.  And I throw myself once again at the darkness.

And for a moment I feel as if my prayer has been answered.

Finally I see nothing:  my eyes are closed and I’m quietly sleeping.

Rest, I think to myself, at last.

Rest …

But no.

I’m mistaken.

My eyes remain open.

And still it goes on, this dream …

Going on and on.

 

There is no light.

And even the light that must have slipped in from the corridor, as I did, has immediately been extinguished.

And the corridor itself could have disappeared entirely:  only the darkness closes in behind me.

It’s as if no light dares to enter, in fact, not risking even a single intrepid beam or a solitary enquiring finger, as if banished at the boundary.

And the room feels cursed with this heavy darkness:  condemned to its solitude.

And without occupant or companion, it’s as if the room has been locked up in its loneliness:  empty and wholly blind.

I feel as if I’m floating in space:  buoyed up upon the black air.

And only slowly do I begin to move around, my hands and arms stretched out, my fingers nervously slipping in the darkness, blind, unsure.  I feel like a ghost:  a spirit floating out from my feverish eyes, a faint image flickering across an empty black screen, and no more than that, more felt than seen.

Then suddenly a sharp noise …

My head jerks around in the direction of the sound, my eyes stretching out still further into nothing:  the door behind me has closed shut, the harsh thunder clap of its slamming echoing in my ears.

I cannot see.

But still I rush towards the noise:  I hope to catch it in my hands like a key with which to open the door.

I wish to escape from this room.

It’s the worst yet:  far worse than the others.  In what way, how or why, I’m not sure: it’s unclear.

It’s just that, I suppose:  a feeling, a vague anxiety.

And the darkness seems so oppressive, like a prison:  incarcerating the eyes in a kind of solitary confinement.  So that even the long, lonely corridor, with all its screaming mouths and scratching fingernails, would, I think, be preferable to this place:  this place is an empty horror.

And I watch, although I cannot see them, as my hands splash around in the air:  still searching …

And in the darkness of my eyes, I’m looking everywhere, but still I can’t find it, the door, the exit, as if it’s faded into a wall and disappeared.  Except that the walls have also vanished:  I’m sure that I’m moving but my hands find nothing, a chilling emptiness.  And I feel them shake:  I’m shivering with cold.

And I throw myself around in the fever:  this way and that.

And I can feel sweat running from my forehead to the tip of my nose, stinging my empty eyes before dropping down to …

But I’m not even sure if there’s a floor lying solid beneath my feet.

It feels so strange to be moving here:  like walking in a dream.

A fantasy of movement.

 

But I know I’m not alone.

And as I look for a way out, I’m aware of the presence of another, sometimes coming quite close, sometimes keeping at a distance, but always waiting, waiting, and watching, always watching.

Another pair of eyes blackened by this sleepy seeing, looking out, circling me in the darkness, invisible in the blind air.  And now occasionally the sound of breathing:  breathing in, breathing out.  Coming nearer then slipping away:  teasing me with trembling expectation.  And I wonder if I’m imagining it, like hearing a voice in the head, saying:  ‘A dream, only a dream … ‘  Except that something then brushes lightly against my cheek, like a whisper.  I lash out with my arms but immediately they’re tangled in empty space leaving me only with myself and nothing.

And I look around but my eyes are entirely lost in the monotony of the black landscape.

And I see only the darkness staring back at me, stern and accusing:  they are as good as closed, my eyes.

But after a while I hear a voice, a voice calling out:  ‘Who is it?  Who is it?’

But there’s no reply:  even the sound of breathing has faded away and disappeared.  There’s just the silence now:  a peculiar silence, seeming almost loud, weighing heavily upon the ears like a deafness.

Then suddenly there really is a loud noise:  the silence once more broken as I’m spinning around to the sound of a door slamming sharply behind me.  At once I move towards it, but as soon as I take a step I’m cut off by a new noise:  again the heavy slamming of a door, this time in an entirely different direction.  And then the slamming of a third door in yet another direction, this time more quietly.  And then another, now terrifically loud, the dark silence shattering around the ears.  And I’m running around myself like a dog chasing its tail, frightened and bewildered.  I don’t know which way to turn or what to do.  Then again:  another door.  And then another and another:  the noise invading the ears like torrents of abuse crashing down on the hearing in wave upon wave.  And I feel dizzy and sick:  weak as if each of these doors were shutting directly in my face, flattening me.  And I’m both frozen, immobile with anxious indecision, and seemingly stretched out through the entire extent of the cavernous darkness around me, so that with each door clapped shut, I feel as if one length of nerve after another were being cut away in sharp, single blows, the severed nerve endings then springing back at me, spitefully, frayed and useless, like prickly undergrowth in a forest, whipping my face.  And still the noise continues, becoming louder and louder in my bruised and burning ears:  the sound like a hot poker skewering the head from side to side, the brain swelling up, fit to burst.  And it’s like a constant, rumbling thunder:  doors slamming everywhere.  And as my head jerks chaotically from one direction to another, my eyes blinking open and closed, it’s as if this awful, splintering noise in my ears were really just my head slammed from side to side and from wall to wall:  again and again and again.

But …

The noise ends.

As suddenly as it began.

And I’m returned, staggering, to silence.

I hold out my arms in front of me, looking for support, as if to prevent myself from falling.  But still there’s nothing:  nothing but the surrounding darkness, which feels rather as if it’s pushing me down, trying to force me to my knees.  And I try to make it reciprocate, lending me a dark shoulder on which to lean for a moment, but then it shrinks to nothingness, leaving me stumbling in thin air.

And I continue like this for some minutes:  I’m like a blind man groping in the dark, flailing around in my empty eyes, directionless.

Another turn of the screw.

And my wrists, abruptly seized, are held tightly:  they’re clamped in a pair of hands, emerging suddenly from the darkness, which feel like two iron vices.

And I can hear myself yelling out in pain …

And it’s as if my arms are being simultaneously pushed and pulled in opposing directions, stretched and squeezed like items of soggy laundry, the blood being wrung out drop by agonizing drop.  A game of Chinese torture where the pain is so excruciatingly intense that submission is immediate.  Although the torture still continues and all you can do with the hurt in your crying eyes is scream out:  ‘Stop!  Stop!  Enough!  Enough!’

But still it goes on:  the pain and discomfort.

And still I’m held fast.

And my hands are now wrenched behind me then slammed together, pulled higher and higher up my back, reaching up towards the neck as if I’m to be strangled by my own hand, my arms aching horribly, my joined fists putting pressure upon my spine, as if to snap it, boring through my body from back to front, like a drill.  And the hairs at the back of my head are tingling:  breath tickles them from behind making them erect with fear.  And as I’m held fast, this breath is the only thing that’s moving in the air:  it’s like a faint, ominous breeze.  It disgusts me as if it’s foul, putrid.  And gagging, I struggle to spit it out …

But just as I’m beginning to catch my breath and collect my thoughts, I’m given a sudden, savage shove from behind, forcing me to take several paces forward, crumpled, bruised, and now completely out of breath, winded.  And then I’m hit once or twice in the back, then five or six times more, in quick succession, now a shove or a thump, now a slap or a punch:  sometimes on the back, sometimes the arms, the face, guiding me now this way, now that.  And as I’m lurching forward I look out again into the darkness which, in my eyes, remains always the same:  only its texture is slightly roughened by all these vigorous blows sent slicing through it, and even then for only a moment.  It seems to me that I’m not being moved far, at any rate, although I’ve lost all sense of time and distance.  And I mistrust my sensory impressions:  I don’t feel sure of them.  I’m utterly disorientated, in fact:  this no doubt being the point.

Until eventually I’m stopped:  brought to a halt with a jerk of my hands, this time still further up my back, as if the purpose were to break my arms.  My legs are roughly kicked below the knee, from behind, so that they separate and widen apart.  And eventually I’m standing as if to attention, my legs stretched out like two sides of a triangle, a soldier at ease, not at ease, a martial court.  And I’m shaking.

My head is yanked back from my chest.

And I listen to the sound of a striking match.

It flares up into a sudden bright, glaring light, only about an inch or an inch and a half below my right eye, painfully hot upon the retina, as if scorching out at once this single moment of unexpected seeing, like a missed window of opportunity, not a promise but an empty deceit.  But still my eyes struggle to penetrate beyond the burning orange flame and out into the darkness of the surrounding space.  The effort is wasted:  my eyes are on fire and shrink away at once, seeing nothing.  Then as swiftly as it first exploded into life, the flame retreats back, as if it’s melting in its own heat, exhausted by its efforts.  The darkness squeezes it tighter and tighter in its sooty black fingers, until at last it turns blue and then faints and dies, extinguished forever.

The disappearance of this momentary light plunges my eyes into a still greater depression.  And they roll down into its depths like two falling rocks, worked loose from above.  The sensation makes me giddy:  my head spins around and around.  I try to close my eyes, to slow things down, but whether my eyes are open or shut, what I appear to see remains always the same so that I can hardly tell the difference now between seeing and not seeing, between having sight and being blind, as if the darkness has claimed me as its own, made me a part of it, cloaking me in its shadowy robes and blacking out my eyes, emptying me of light.  And as I stand rigid with fear in this empty space, as if rooted to the ground and not daring to move, it’s only the trembling strain in my tired, sleepless eyes, needling at them as if the dark light has been splintered into countless jagged fragments, showering them in a solution of ground glass, making them itch and irritate, which is now my only indication that still, somewhere, they are floating out there in the black air, my eyes, like two milky planets, rivered with red blood.

And I still look out:  I’m trying to see.

And as I do so:  a ball of fire exploding from a second match.  It’s again positioned a little in front of my face but this time held up to my left eye, like an ophthalmoscope.  Instinctively I cringe away, drawing back until the pain in my arms becomes too intense, which happens almost instantly.  And it’s clear that something holds my head in position, so that, no matter how badly I panic, I can’t move far …

Slowly, slowly, it draws nearer and nearer towards my eye:  my eye now maddened in its staring brightness, blinking continuously in instinctive fear, as if trying to blow up a slight breeze with which to snuff out the flame.  It burns against my skin.  And as the surface of my eye seems slowly to melt away, smarting tears rolling rapidly down my cheeks, I feel like I’m in some weird thermolytic experiment, imprisoned in a burning tomb and observed as my eyes begin to boil.  And my eye itself seems on the verge of flaring up into a bright, burning flame, when suddenly it’s plunged back once more into the icy darkness.  The match has finally burned down and gone out.  But it leaves the smell of sulphur still lingering in the air:  a sickening memory.

And it’s not yet over.  Still it goes on, this game.  First one eye and then another, as match after match are struck fleetingly into light, blaring up brightly for two or three seconds at a time, screwing up my eyes into tight, fiery balls, then just as suddenly dying away, disappearing into darkness.  The matches are struck at such regular intervals, like a flaming pendulum swinging from side to side before my face, that I find myself entirely absorbed in the rhythm of their opening and shutting eyes, of the alternating succession of sudden light and impenetrable darkness.  And eventually I’m reduced to being little more than a staring idiot, entirely mesmerized by this play of fiery colours and spellbound before the sudden flashes of bright, blinding light, so that all that I can now distinguish is a faint blue-green fog, forming like a curse from the back of my eyes.  The rest is darkness.

And I stare into this fog, like a mirror, as if it were some kind of swirling whirlpool into which I am shortly to descend, falling into it like a hole, going down and down.  And I watch as it appears to grow and grow, sucking me into it, ever deeper and deeper.  And it slips across my vision like an eyewash, its colour continually changing, first black and unseen, then grey like a plume of smoke spiralling outwards from itself, forming ever wider concentric circles, out and away from a single black point, like a dark middle, the absent centre, vibrating upon my retina, like an instrument of sound;  then turning gradually into a dark, earthy brown, no more than a smudge or blur upon the eye, becoming paler now, dirty, like water in a flood;  then more like copper, burnished in vinegar, growing darker into green, like rosy pink skin, once bronzed and burnt beneath a golden yellow sun, now infected and diseased, turned milky green like a colour gone off, pallid like a sickness, spreading across my sight like mildew, feeding like a fungus upon the eye;  then red, like blood, roughened and made irregular by strings of veins, stretched out and vermicular, branching out like streams, or like hundreds of tiny tentacles crawling this way and that, grasping like thin, spindly fingers, constricting, narrowing, slowly squeezing ever tighter and tighter, the washes of blood red colour now slowed to a soupy trickle, thick and lumpy like glue;  so that at last the colour collapses once more into a galaxy of tiny, barely perceptible dots, busy upon the eye, an industrious army of small black ants;  endlessly circling the eye, they crawl gradually into blue, through purple and violet, as if dyed in the colour of an indigo sea, aquamarine, the colour of the oceans, a light, bluish-green beryl, flecked with memories of emerald and lapis lazuli, now growing paler with forgetting, turning turquoise like the sky;  and then a creamy white, like the balls of the eyes staring blindly into space, turning silver in the darkness, like stars, tiny crystals of pearly light expanding into a fog before me, so that my eyes are now captivated and, lost, as they are, in looking, they simply stare and stare, like a madness.  And the darkness has grown loud, like a sinister music, as if taking me into a trance, lulling me into a final act of abandonment, stealing away my eyes, then losing them, forever …

More laughter.

It slices through the air like peals of bright, metallic sound, cutting through the silence surrounding my ears, snapping at them like sharpened scissors, glittering before my eyes.

And I try to move my head and look around, searching for the source of this cruel, grating sound, wanting to silence it.

But my eyes, as before, are locked in their path of looking:  my head rendered almost entirely immobile, and my hair a source of pain as if being pulled from behind, scratched away from the scalp by bone white teeth.

And still I stare and stare, trying desperately to see beyond, looking hard towards nothing.  Although gradually it appears that I do see something:  only a faint movement, at first, but then lines extending here and there into vague shapes, like patterns emerging in the play of silvery, fragmented light, slowly gathering into form before looming out at me, finally, like a face from the darkness.

And I gaze out, my eyes sore with looking, at a moon faced boy, who eyes me from within a mist of pale white light, as if cloaked in its aura.  His features, to begin with, lack definition, as if slightly out of focus, blurred at the periphery of my vision, obscure.  And as my eyes squeeze tight, I can make out only that what he is wearing, like his hair, is dark and plain.  And that his face, by contrast, seems to float freely from his body, as if it’s a quite separate living entity:  it possesses a disconcerting, luminous quality, as if all its blood has been drained from the surface, turning the skin a sickly, bloated white, appearing lurid against a background black as pitch.  His eyes, by contrast, are a bright, piercing blue, like stained agate, swelling up in my vision like oases in a sweltering desert, unexpected and refreshing.  But they seem, as I look at them, to alternate between gentle and hard, warm and cold, subtle changes in the light making them appear to oscillate, undecided, treacherous, quivering in their own slight glow.  And while they appear, at one moment, to surge suddenly towards me, in the next, and as swiftly, they seem to retreat, as if once more hidden, a dark blur of seeing.

And his look is also ambiguous, unsettling in its intensity.  It’s either serious, I decide, or its opposite, playful, as if the stern stare were only a front, a mask to be removed.  And sure enough, as if reading my thoughts, he moves his hands to his face, pinching together thumb and forefinger, a hand at either side of the neck, below the chin, as if the surface of the face is indeed just a mask, a sheet which is about to be lifted, like a priest uncovering a monstrance, or a bride who lifts her veil.

‘You are wondering’, he says, in a voice which sounds strangely familiar, ‘if it is possible, perhaps, just once, to peel away the skin, removing it altogether, to skin yourself.  And then to step away from your old self and out into an entirely new form, as if born again into a different life, like a discovery of a whole new world.  And you are right to ask yourself this question and I can understand why you do so – especially now, when escape, for you, is impossible’.

I let out an involuntary shudder as his words drizzle slowly into my ears, reaching me a little later than they appear to have been spoken, like words out of sync, or as if the apparent nearness of the boy’s face is an optical illusion, and the actual distance far greater, or else that the air here is so thick and heavy that sound is slow to labour through it, arriving late.  And I find myself wondering if the voice I’m hearing is connected in any way at all, in fact, with the slowly moving lips of the boy standing before me, as if it comes from somewhere else entirely, from behind me, for example, or else bubbling up from the back of my brain.  And if it really is the boy’s voice that I hear, it’s curious how he speaks beyond his years, more like a man than a boy.  Although I’ve wondered, also, at the words and thoughts that have sometimes found expression in my own voice, so that at times I’ve barely recognized it, despite the familiarity of its sound.  And I find this thought comforting:  as if this feverish dream that I’m still, even now, imagining, is only mine through error, a mistake of the night.

‘Look!’, says the voice.  ‘And learn’.

And again I hear laughing.

Not really, as far as I can tell, coming from the boy himself, but rather from everywhere except for the boy, the sound echoing around my ears, stinging at them like a cracked whip.

And I watch, horrified, as, pulling slowly at the skin, he removes his face.

 

I suppose that it was a kind of nervous collapse.

And the time as if lost …

So much time.

How strange it all is.

And it seems to stretch both forwards and backwards.

From the past it creeps forward to this moment:  from here it looks back …

But how long was I confined to my bed?

A few days.

A period of weeks.

Perhaps.

Or even longer.

I’m still not sure.

And I’ve never known for sure:  I didn’t really ask for any details.

So of course I wasn’t told.

I only know that most of this time I spent alone, feverish, semiconscious, for the first few days, at least, then merely sleeping, still.

 

And these nights must have been so heavy with time:  slow and ponderous, for a while unmoving, time stalled like a sail without wind.  And it must have been quite a strain for my parents.  It was certainly a strain for me.  And I waited:  trapped within this time.

Or had time, for a moment, stopped?

My dreams, timeless?

As if I’d escaped from its tyranny.

And existed quite apart.

In a place without time:  a place without the counting of time.

So that even the time of my dreaming self I could view, as a spectator, from a distance, from its timeless exterior.  As if it formed a film which, motionless, I watched:  the lead looking at times familiar, then unrecognizable, his face flickering, insubstantial, like a rippling shadow on light sprayed water, a liquid image floating slowly in, then out, of focus, a starry constellation in a pitch black sky, its linked points prompting memory, a twinkling in the eye, brightly, at first, then fading, dim, played out in the dark, its chalky white features crumbling, dissolving, dissolving to form a screen which is, in fact, absent, a timeless cinema.

And I thought that I’d died.

But no:  not yet.

Not so far as I can tell.

I’m still not sure.

But I know that then my breath stirred.

My breath stirred.

My spirit stirred.

And this stirring carried me with it, like a wave, pulling me along with it, unconscious, in its wake, supported on its back, a passenger, sleeping, oblivious to the time through which it flowed.  And as I lapped from moment to moment, time continued, piling up within me like silt deposited by water, except invisible to the unseeing eye, taken on faith, like an imaginary shore, now far behind and lost as if forever.  And as it accumulated secretly in my mind, time, like a residue of its past, in only the tiniest of increments, sweating it out, a torture, my temperature began, at last, to drop – too gradually, at first, to be noticed or remarked upon – but returning, nevertheless, slowly and surely, to normal.  And then the atmosphere, as I imagine it, which before must have been so dry and heavy, must itself have been relieved:  lanced, the fever released, finally, escaping as if through a rip in its stuffy, overheated garments, a small tear in its fabric, like a partially opened mouth, allowing me, once again, to pass my eyes, like watery bubbles, through its airy veil.

But instead of floating upwards into consciousness, like a diver coming up, gasping, for air, or like a man who splutters suddenly awake, springing up from his bed, and immediately alert, what I remember most is rather the sensation of a continued falling, like a man dropping down from the sky into water, falling and falling, so heavy, in the air, awkward and clumsy, falling like a stone, powerless, without will, and crunched up into a tiny round ball, hard, and tight, then crashing down through the water like glass, the broken spray swirling around in the air, then forgotten upon the surface as, cutting sharply through the water, through time, the fall continues, plunging down and down, ever deeper and deeper, going on and on.

And I continued to fall, and, as I did so, my dreaming sight seemed to roll around and around within me, my eyes rattling like two jewels in an empty chest, and my vision dizzy.  And my sight grew darker, the bordering blindness closing swiftly around me, black extinguishing light, cutting off my sight, sending me downwards into myself, plummeting lower and lower.

So that in the final few moments of my fever I could do no more than watch:  a distant observer.

And I watched, no more than a point, as I fell still further, black now myself, like a slick upon water, a darkened pupil, slipping into a spilling eye, an eye beginning to tear, rip open, an eye peeling apart in layer upon layer, an eye unravelled, in fact, spiralling out beneath me like a watery chute, sending me flying, an emptiness, dazzling, a milky whiteness, blank and unseeing, soft, like clouds, but always blind, blind as a bald eye.

And I’m awake.

I realize.

At last I’m awake.

 

And from the depths of the darkness I opened my eyes.

 

I opened my eyes.

Although at once, from reflex, I snapped them closed again, immediately, screwing them up, at first, in the dizzy strangeness of the sudden light, contracting the surrounding muscles of my face, concentrating, as if to tense and then relax them, working them loose, bringing the blood, bubbling, back to life.  And only as I began to unwind these muscles, the eyes fanning open like unfurling flowers, did the light leak in more gradually, and tolerably, little by little, allowing me time for my sleepy eyes, grown lazy in their leisure, to adjust, once more, to sight.  And then I began to see colour:  colour washing in with the light, flowing out upon the backs of my eyes like ink in water.  And the colours seemed to swim in my vision, both mixing and separating, until, drop by drop, they were streamed, as if in currents, into various shapes, shapes which gradually developed form and then were still.  And my surprise was great, as my eyes slowly settled upon the objects before them, to find them revealing a scene which seemed, to me, so entirely familiar:  I had returned to my room.

My room.

And it was just as I had left it, in fact, so neatly arranged, so ordered, now, where I see it all, in my memory.

The first object to take its place, for example, seizing my sight with its size, was a creamy coloured wardrobe, in a brown, chipped, plywood frame, which I could see still standing, like a surly guardian, in the corner opposite my bed, by the window.  The window itself was concealed:  robed in pale blue curtains, drawn closed, like a filter for the sky, its light diluted.  And the walls, too, were of a similar watery blue:  a dye perhaps darker by a wash, slightly fuller and deeper in colour.

Beneath the window stood a small child’s desk, the desk at which I studied, crouching over it with my eyes, a little weak, sat perched almost to the end of my nose, peering, in concentration, at the words scribbled out, from left to right, in a tiny hand.  And to the side of the desk, a chair, its back standing straight and alert, as if encouraging me to set myself down upon its seat, a pale red leather, ready for work.

And the floor, thinly carpeted, was kept clear, for the most part, of mess and rubbish:  there was just a small wicker bin, as I remember, a laundry basket, and a sturdy bedside table, covered in a neat square of white embroidered cloth, on top of which stood a coaster and a lamp.

My father’s favourite expressions were:  ‘everything has its place’ and ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’.  When I was young these comments washed over me like bleach, but now, unbeckoned, they recur quite often in my thoughts, more voices in the chorus.  They did their work, I suppose:  my room was always impeccably clean and tidy, unnaturally so.

On one of the inside walls, about halfway between the floor and the ceiling, were a couple of shelves.  The lower of these supported some miniature toy figures, some stones scattered randomly, like an oriental garden, a few photographs, old family portraits, mostly, and a whorled conch shell, exquisitely beautiful, a souvenir of the sea.  The higher shelf was reserved for my books.  It laboured under their accumulated weight, with books stacked both vertically and horizontally, laden down with all the treasures of my childhood:  books of travel and adventure, science and nature, stories of the sea and the sky, the supernatural and the fantastical, all mixed up together.

And how nice it was to see these things:  how nice to see my room.

And how refreshed I felt when I woke from the fever, as after a long, sound sleep, and for a while I enjoyed the sensation of being dreamily light-headed, buoyant, like the air.

My parents, too, when at last my eyes had adjusted to their presence, appeared relieved.  Although for some reason this struck me, in itself, as strange:  they looked at me in a way which seemed new, different.  And I felt as if I were seeing them in a new light.  It was their eyes, I thought, their eyes above all else, which had altered.  They seemed foreign:  no longer suspended, lifeless, as if frozen in the air.  They had blurred:  blurred now with a hint of tenderness and compassion, forming trembling in my vision as if the heat of my fever had melted away the old eyes, old and uncaring, as previously I’d thought them, those eyes which had appeared always so fearsome, upon the surface so cold and so hard, staring out, unmoving, from their faces.

And did they really say then that they loved me?

Or did I just imagine it?

Again I’m not sure.

Not certain.

But I suppose that they must have done:  they must have loved me in their own special way.

For a while they seemed hesitant as if unsure of their emotions:  surprised by them, perhaps, not realizing that they existed.  Perhaps they were surprised by themselves.  And I looked at them now as if they were two quite new and different people:  strangers, almost.  Although, to my shame, I didn’t welcome the changes I saw in them, the subtle softening, for example, of their features, and the loosening up of the skin which seemed to crack open, as I looked, into tiny avenues of anxiety around their eyes and mouths, the lines on their faces as if painfully redrawn.  I felt unnerved.  It was as if a great age had stolen suddenly upon them, making them seem more frail and vulnerable, weaker and more confused, than I’d ever thought possible.  And the suggestion of delicacy, if such it was, in their manner, unusual and unforeseen, their nervous discretion, their slight air, almost, of hopelessness, left me bewildered.  It was all in such stark contrast to their attitudes during my previous bouts of childhood sickness:  a contrast that struck me as awkward, disturbing, clanging in my memory.  And I tried to make sense of it, but couldn’t:  it seemed so strange.

And so I repeat the question.

What had happened?

And I still don’t have an answer.

I still don’t know.

The pattern in the past had, after all, been always to dispute a sickness, questioning its symptoms, challenging its existence, or simply ignoring it altogether.  So that even when I looked sick, it was never immediately accepted that actually I was so:  to begin with one could say only that I claimed to be sick, no more.  Naturally this filled me with a sense of guilt:  it sapped my confidence, forcing me to question the reality of my feelings and crushing me into a numbed confusion, doubting myself more and more, sent spiralling into my mind.  And my anger and embarrassment at these accusations I would then take out on my body, as clearly it was my body that had, in some mysterious, ill-defined way, failed me.  My body was weak and had let me down, I thought.  It was determined to undermine me:  it must be punished.

And when alone, I would crouch in a corner of my room, running my hands along the lines of my body, as if sketching its different shapes, shading, with my fingers, between hard and soft, the bones prominent beneath the skin, or else absent, seemingly, the skin smooth and responsive, my hands sliding silently across it.  And I would search for its start and its finish, its beginning and end:  a point from which to measure its substance, now seeming light, now heavy, in my hands.  And often I touched my body with a feeling, almost, of disbelief, as if my existence were unreal, an illusion:  as if to believe in it involved a faith too great.

And I would stare, blindly, into space, as my hands, all the while, kept on moving.  And I willed them, as they did so, to find some fault upon the surface of my body:  something to make sense of its weakness.  And I don’t know why but I was sure that this would help me:  a roughness, like a cut in rock, which at last I could seize and hold on to, grasping and exploring it with my fingers, like something seeming real and tangible, a point of pain, perhaps, a pivot, explaining everything, and from which, once finally I’d found it, I could tear myself away.

After a while I would allow my hands to settle upon my face, as if to still my head, to stop it from spinning.  My right hand I would place tightly to my right cheek, my left hand to my left cheek, my palms pressing upwards beneath my chin, and my features feeling fragile between my hands.  And then, at some mysterious, indeterminate point, as if independent from my will, a strange ritual would once again begin.

First I’d take my left hand away from my face, moving it slowly from my body until it passed beyond my vision, disappearing behind me.  And then I’d use this hand to hit myself, hard, upon the side of the head, swinging it around and towards me with as much force and speed as I could possibly manage, the hand crashing red against my cheekbone, the dull sound of its impact slapping suddenly against me, a shock to my senses, making my eyes sting and leaving my ears ringing.  The motion was then repeated, only this time on the other side, the right hand instinctively pulled back, poised, as if ready and waiting.

Again and again I hit myself:  first with one hand and then the other.  I would do it rhythmically and systematically, as if it were a question of discipline:  first left, then right.  The same action repeated over and over again, until my eyes seemed set apart from my body and as if suspended in mid-air, wild with burning fury, and my cheeks now red and sore, bruised and bloated, every nerve-ending crying out, screaming as if raw and exposed, and, at the same time, like the rest of my head, my body, seeming numb – deadened by the pain.  And after a while my eyes, tired of their burning, would start to water and weep, the tears flowing down my face and hands, rolling away, unseen.  And then, when I could stand it no longer, I would eventually stop, a crumpled mess washed up upon the floor.

The blood came later.

A sense of twisted anguish was only ever intensified, naturally, my stomach screwed still tighter, on those rare occasions when, after a thorough cross-examination and much heated discussion, the decision was finally taken to summon the doctor.  Waiting for his arrival, as I cowered beneath a torrent of recrimination, was a test of stamina, a torture.

And it was a little as if my parents felt themselves personally responsible for any admission, on my part, of illness:  as if I’d presented them with a charge against which they, in turn, had now to defend themselves.  And their initial counter-attack came most usually, I remember, in the form of a series of stiff warnings against malingering.  Malingering was a recurring theme:  it was always assumed, for example, that I was exaggerating my case.  And often I was accused, outright, of lying.  ‘You’re crying wolf!’, I was told (the words of my mother finding articulation, as so often, through the voice of my father).  ‘The doctor will see it instantly!  He’ll see straight through you!  And then you’ll be sorry!’

The doctor was a crotchety old man who seemed to lurk in my mind, when young, like a sinister shadow, darkening my imagination.  He always arrived at our house on an old-fashioned, iron framed bicycle, a long, black cape draped over his head and down towards the ground.  This cape concealed his actual means of transport so that he appeared, at first, like an area of dark matter floating freely and without form, a dense hole in one’s seeing like a smudge on the eye.

His appearance, once dismounted, struck me altogether differently.  Seeming suddenly very solid, he was a short, fat man, with wild, wormy hair and round, stubby legs, whose features were in every way exaggerated.  His eyebrows, for example, were unbelievably thick and bushy, concealing black, screwed up eyes, piercing dark, which, partly hidden, sank deeply into his skull.  And his lips, too, were gigantic, sagging raw and open, swollen like his nose which was red and bulbous, pitted and pock-marked like a rotten growth.  And sprouting out from his nose were small clusters of dark, oily hairs, which I would watch as they appeared to squirm, like maggots, in his gaping black nostrils.

But although the sight of his face was a fright in itself, it was his enormous pink hands, sausage fingered and sweaty palmed, which menaced me more.  They seemed to be continually moving, twitching and shaking, the fingers in particular, as if clawing at the air, feeling for flesh.  And as soon as they reached me they would start immediately to poke and prod, pushing and pulling at my skin.

Worst of all was his breath, so noxious and unpleasant that it made my eyes water at each fetid, gasped out puff of poisonous, second hand air, his flabby, wheezing lungs rattling and rasping alarmingly.  His breath seemed to knock me out, like an anaesthetic, and once it had taken its almost immediate effect, dulling the senses, my sickness was all but forgotten, as if suddenly I’d been cured.

And my one thought, in his monstrous presence, was of how to escape from it.  But it always appeared impossible:  his flesh rolled around him as he moved, creating a compelling current, which seemed to suck you into it, like a vortex – there was no getting past him.  And he was altogether grotesque, this man:  a nightmare.

But for my parents, though, he was useful:  useful for reasons quite apart from his questionable skill in medicine.  They had sensed, early on, that I hated him, disliking his sinister muttering, his glaring spittle, his quivering form, and they put this to their advantage, employing him, sadistically, as a threat.  ‘We’ll call the doctor … ‘, they’d say, in low, malicious tones, like a chant, the prospect always subduing me at once, as if they’d succeeded, as they hoped, to frighten me into a state of good health.

But they were doing their best, I suppose.  At least I hope that they were.  And perhaps they sometimes even thought, and in all good faith, that one day I might thank them:  thank them for their severe, if unstable, ‘character building’ upbringing.  But no:  I don’t think so.  Although I do wonder if perhaps, now that I turn back to those days, I’ve misremembered or misjudged them:  perhaps they weren’t always as terrible as I’d thought.  Perhaps they weren’t always so harsh and so cruel:  not always.  And perhaps I remember sometimes a soothing word.  Or a hand:  a gesture, appearing suddenly, unexpectedly, in time.  Or an eye, perhaps, passing by:  a look.  Small things:  memories.

Like those days, for example, when they thought me genuinely and quite seriously sick, and were quick to keep me home, away from school.  Sometimes this was just a ruse:  on their part, not mine.  They wanted me to work around the house.  But on the occasions when I was sent to bed, cold and shivering, I can, I think, recall my mother standing nearby, her presence watching over me.  She must have been there:  yes, I’m sure of it.

And occasionally she’d come into my room to bring me a bowl of hot, warming broth.  Chicken soup was the standard:  ‘a cure for all colds – light and heavy!’, she told me once, a weird grin fixed beneath dull eyes.  And I would wrap my hands around the dish, its heat tingling my fingers, and watch the steam as it rose to my face.  ‘Just get that down you’, she’d say, scoffing.  ‘That’ll bring you alive in no time!’

And then, very occasionally, later, when I was nearing sleep, she would return to my room, sitting at my side in order to tell me a story.  My body fidgets at the thought, a rippling of the skin, a shudder, perhaps, no more.  And I can see her now as if she sits there still.  I can’t get rid of her, not really:  it’s impossible.  And sometimes she would sit there for hours and hours on end, empty eyes drooped down into her lap or else staring expressionlessly into space:  not speaking, not moving.  Chalky faced, she’s frozen, dead.  Although her voice still sounds:  I can hear it, I listen.

Her mind, I suspect, had been lined from an early age, like mine, with cruelty.  And her taste in tales, developing from this, showed a marked fascination with all things dark and macabre.  So although there were perhaps moments, during my childhood, when I enjoyed the knowledge of her nearness, I lacked the courage to tell her that the stories themselves, on the occasions that she read them, pleased me little.

I had the feeling, in any case, that the stories she told were told primarily for her own satisfaction.  She told them to herself, for herself, reading them as if exploring her own past, her own childhood:  a past within which she seemed sealed, forever separate, apart.  And I never had the heart to break the spell, if spell it was.  It would have seemed a sort of sacrilege to have said something at the wrong moment or to have disturbed her in some way:  an intrusion into her private world.  So I simply looked on, silent and watchful as if myself bewitched.

And the stories themselves, replacing tedium with terror, were variations, usually, of local legends and old fashioned fairy tales, and told of ghosts and ghouls, werewolves and vampires.  One story, I remember, involved a headless horseman who appeared only once each year, at midnight of the shortest day, the blackest hour of winter.  ‘This was the hour of your birth’, my mother would then observe, innocently, a comment added always at the end, like a mysterious coda, as her eyes grew dark like the night.

Another story she told was the tale of a young woman who had locked herself in her room, inconsolable after the death of her murdered lover.  Still to be seen, centuries later, she sits by the fireplace, mixing ash with the wetness of her face, drawing teardrops, one after another, on the wall.  And then there was a similar tale about a man who’d been betrayed by his first love:  his ghost still wandering.  And yet another about someone who, maddened by the sadness of love, had slowly bled himself to death, drop by drop, from a hundred tiny cuts upon his body.  And this story merges, in my memory, with something my mother once said about a house where a mysterious flow of blood dripped down from the ceiling, every night, in a monotonous music, forming a large red pool upon the floor below:  its source unknown.

She particularly liked horrors in the home:  they were the complement, perhaps, to her fully controlled world.  There was a story about a room where bloody, staring eyes oozed out from the walls, for example:  is it this room here, I wonder?  It certainly feels like it sometimes.  And another, or the same, creeping darkly into my dreams, of a room where spiders, at night, would descend, quietly, from the black shadows of the ceiling, to spin an enormous web around the sleeper below, who was now never to wake, doomed instead to be devoured in the darkness, night after night.

There were so many stories, in fact:  scattered nights of my childhood.  But these tales, in particular, were among my mother’s favourites, I suppose:  they must have been the tales to which she returned, again and again, in her storytelling, staining my imagination so that they remain, still now, floating fresh, haunting, in my memory.

Like my face:  a boy.

Still, impassive.

It had to be.  Showing fear was a serious matter.  My mother treated it with the utmost contempt.  And the signs of it she would recognize at once, waking suddenly from her reverie in order to mock me bitterly, hurling abuse.

‘You can’t be my son!’, she’d taunt.  ‘Just look at that face – all yellow and trembly, what a sight! – a disgrace! – no, no:  it can’t be – I found you beneath a bush, I’m sure! – I must have adopted you in a moment’s pity! – just look! – that dear, soft heart – the coward!’

This was, in fact, the main lesson that my mother tried to teach me:  always to hide away my feelings, to deny them in the darkness, and to bury them as deeply as possible beneath the surface of consciousness.  And whenever something frightened me or made me unhappy, whether it was one of her stories or my father’s harsh words, for example, or, later on, because of being bullied or beaten at school, or if I was worried or depressed about something, or sick, even if just with a cold, or flu, I did try always, whenever humanly possible, to behave as if everything were entirely in order.

Order, I knew, was of the utmost importance – it made things invisible.

Sickness, which tended to run riot with a person, breaking out willy-nilly, without discretion or subtlety, was, by contrast, the very worst of crimes:  it was never to be considered, a taboo.

And my parents, for reasons that I’ve never discovered, the natural fascism of the so far healthy, perhaps, lived mostly in denial of it:  it was too much fuss, too much of a bother, too weak, too vulnerable, too inconvenient, too demanding.  I learnt my lessons well:  nearly always I kept silent.  And so good was I, in fact, in a quiet, unobtrusive sort of way, that eventually I, too, disappeared, seeming invisible to all but myself.  And sometimes to myself as well.

 

But my thoughts are wandering.  And this, in any case, was all way back, long in the past:  barren memories, random glimpses of my distant childhood, which relate to a period of my life much earlier, before the fever.

And the situation after it seemed in many ways very different.

Certainly the attitude and demeanour of my parents appeared to have changed quite drastically:  I could sense it in the atmosphere.  The way they looked at me had changed.  The way they spoke to me, sometimes, at least, had changed.  And their words, for once, were chosen mostly with a certain basic tact and care.

There was no more talk, for example, of helping hands, favours to do, and tasks to be finished:  all such cajolery, no matter how light hearted, having disappeared, abruptly, from their conversation.  They seemed anxious, instead, to keep me well away from any work, at school or around the house, away from anything at all, in fact, which might either tire me or make me nervous or excitable.

Practically falling over themselves with care and consideration, I felt almost, upon waking from my fever, as if our customary roles had suddenly been reversed, and as if they, in all their concern, were now a little scared of me, rather than me of them.  And they looked permanently afraid that, in the horror of their presence, I might fracture or break.

I didn’t really know how to behave in the light of these changes:  I’d had no example and felt lost without one.  I didn’t know what to say or do, what posture to adopt or facial expression to assume.  And I tried to keep silent.  This seemed the best policy:  to say as little as possible and, better still, to sleep.

I was still sleeping a lot, in any case, especially in the first few days and months of my sickness, when my parents repeatedly cautioned me that, although now over the worst, I was not to behave as if entirely better.  No:  I was still gravely unwell, they said.  The sickness still lingered around me and it would be a long time, possibly a very long time, before I’d return to normal.  And I’d have to be treated with great care, they warned, or else I might suddenly disappear again, swallowed up by the nightmares from which I’d only just escaped, and dragged once more into fever.  And they didn’t want that:  I would surely die.  And me?  What did I want?  Did I want to die?  Was that it?  Well:  did I?!  No:  one would certainly hope not!

Although not intended to do so, these words of course alarmed me.  They played on all of my worst fears and, left largely alone in my room, as I was, they had plenty of time to echo, empty, in my mind.  Once settled, they became oppressive.  And for a number of weeks it seemed like a struggle just getting up from my bed, my body as if weighed down, imprisoned, heavy with a kind of numbed indifference.  And everything involved too much effort:  I was tired and listless, nothing mattered, I thought.  There was simply no point.  And my thoughts seemed to shrink to the dimensions of my room, as if there was nothing outside of it.  Or as if my room, though small, had grown large in my imagination, expanding into my mind.  ‘A secondary depression’ is what the doctor called it:  whatever that was supposed to mean.

And I spent so much time in my room, where I remained cooped up like fowl, strutting around its small area in repetitive circular patterns, bored out of my mind, for what seemed like endless stretches of time, far too much of that precious, childhood time, in fact.  And I began to think of it as a kind of prison.  And I would often eat in it, alone, and sit in it, sleep in it, live in it, breathe in it:  it was the world I knew.  But at the same time it was a familiarity not always comforting:  not always.  My room seemed often menacing, in fact, like a four walled threat, chastising me with its bare, barren walls, and drawing me into it, pale, washed white, closing tightly around me, wringing me with boredom, and leaving me crushed, thin.

These were my days.

The nights were worse …

‘The lights must be off!’

That’s what they said.

And if not, they were angry.

But the darkness, at night, frightened me:  blind in my own room, I felt lost in my mind.

I had little relief.  It was thought that my friends, for example – imaginary though really they were, belonging only, to my mind, in a game of pretend – or any other kind of visitors, for that matter – hypothetically speaking, that is, their actual character remaining deliberately vague, dismissed, from conversation, with a weak wave of the hand – would, of course, have proven to be too much of a disturbance, draining the blood from my face with their curious, inquisitive eyes, exciting me with all their tiresome questions and idle talk, and irritating my imagination with thoughts of all the wonderfully interesting things that the other children of my age were saying or doing, descriptions of places they’d visited, for example, sights they’d seen during short trips into the country, or to the sea, all places which were considered impossible to visit, for me, too fragile, as I was, at the time, shut up, alone.

And I even seemed sheltered from the sun, as if, left too long beneath its fiery eye, I might burst into flames.  And I never understood why but, as if to keep my skin pale and bloodless, the curtains of my room were kept almost permanently drawn, a habit which, still to this day, I find it difficult to shake off.  And only rarely did I open them, then, the curtains, or even touch or try to move them:  stories of spirits lurking by windows had made me wary, I suppose.  And I don’t open them now because my eyes are weak:  the light burns into them, sharply, hurting them terribly.

 

So as a child, at least, I was extraordinarily grateful for the existence of my books.

And it was only in my books, in fact, that I felt free to explore, to live a little in my mind and at the same time to escape it.  And no doubt the shelf with my books was really the only place in my room, ungoverned by others, which remained open to a kind of mental disorder, a place where fact and fantasy could jostle freely for attention.  Books were my liberation:  I entered into them in flight.  And soon they were the world in which I lived, lost not only in their words, but also in the images, both real and imagined, which, gathering in my eyes, they formed in my mind.

One of my best loved books was, in fact, a book of photographs:  there were over a thousand of them, in total, a visual survey of birds from around the world.  Its title was predictable enough:  An Encyclopaedia of Birds.  Dull but to the point:  I still remember it.

The photographs, as I recall them, were extraordinary.  And I would spend hours poring through them, scrutinizing all the different shapes and colours of the birds and marvelling especially at their names, which often seemed magical, as if, in saying them, you’d be transformed, taking their form and spreading your wings, at once, to fly.  I liked especially the more exotic sounding names and enjoyed their sounds as I tasted them, like a song, in my mouth:  such luscious names, for example, as Bluish Flowerpecker and Crimson Rosella, Sparkling Violetear and Black-spotted Bare-eye, White-cheeked Honeyeater and Yellow-collared Lovebird, Golden-winged Sunbird.

Another of my favourite books was called Explorations into the Great Unknown.  It traced over two thousand years of intrepid travel, charting the lives and adventures of hardy explorers ranging from Alexander the Great and Marco Polo through to Scott and Armstrong.  All figures who, according to the book, ‘risked tremendous danger’ and ‘endured enormous hardship’ in their search for knowledge of ‘the great and mysterious unknown’, those regions which had ‘never before been explored by man’.

Wow!

The book was bursting with drawings of a remote and romantic world, along with maps, old and new, which guided you towards its fantastic lands.  There were also pages and pages of glossy colour pictures.  Occasionally these were of wild, mythical creatures, staking out their territory in the hinterland of primitive fear, although generally the faces were human in appearance, staring out from the text like exhibits in a museum.  Often they were portraits, semi-phrenological, of outlandish despots and their unfamiliar peoples, their framed faces and shrunken heads as if executed on the page.  Most often, of course, they were the pictures of white, western men, boasting craggy cheeks and foreheads and big, hairy beards, their look, more often than not, seeming crazed and manic, an uneasy mixture of defiant hope and exhausted despair, charging out to conquer all.

The final two images in the book I remember very clearly:  they were so different from the others.

A lone man walking upon a planet not our own.

And then an image which I found both delightful and terrifying:  a photograph of earth viewed through the eyes of the universe.

The earth looked so tiny and beautiful, cushioned, alone, in all that dark, empty space, and haloed in stars.

Images that always left me feeling calm, thoughtful.

For me, at the time, it was as though they heralded not only the end of the book:  they heralded likewise the end of everything that was either familiar or comprehensible.

So that I loved these two books dearly.

And they were both of them books about journeys, I suppose:  books of departure.

That’s why I loved them.

I found it easy to imagine myself flying away with the birds, for example, taking off into the sky:  flying high into the air with a migrating flock, or else alone, like an eagle, circling higher and higher towards the heavens.  And my travels with the great explorers were pursued in much the same way:  I followed in their footsteps, treading paths which took me further and further from myself.  And I loved them because they were my first books of escape:  the first of very many, all the books I’ve ever read, perhaps, of which by now there must be thousands.  I wanted so badly to escape …

 

And books were my hope.

I disappeared between their covers:  they were my hiding.

And only later did my writing answer the same purpose, after a fashion.

A form of confrontation:  yes.

But also a form of disappearance.

A hiding.

In my notebooks above all.

And in my notebooks I store my life:  it seems safer in their pages.

I can write it.

And rewrite it.

Little by little.

These words …

 

When I wasn’t reading, I was bored.  But sadly I wasn’t strong enough to read all the time which meant that I was often bored.  And, in any case, even when I was able to read:  well, my books could liberate my mind, but not my body.  And my body, too, was restless.

But paradoxically it was the dreaded doctor himself, during one of his infrequent visits, who rescued me, in the end, from this preponderant state of closeted, interminable boredom.  He was concerned by my lethargy, he said, the slowness of my recovery and my continuing frailty.  He thought I seemed disinterested in life:  moody and introspective as if lost to the world.  And I was morbidly sensitive:  he was sure of it.  Permanently on edge:  as if frightened by everything.  And at the same time I was reading too much:  it wasn’t good for my eyes.

I’d have more energy, he thought, and more enthusiasm, as well, if only I could get out of the house, now and then, for some exercise and fresh air.  Nothing too strenuous, of course.  Just something to take me from my bed and room:  an excuse for me to move, if you like, exciting my blood and expanding my lungs.  A short walk around the house should, he thought, be sufficient.  To begin with, at least.

And so I began, most days, to take myself out for a little walk, more like an old man than a young boy, into the modestly sized garden at the back of the house:  a space comparatively small and enclosed by a high wooden fence on all three of its sides.  But I was only allowed out in the late afternoon, when, although still warm, the sun, already dipped in shadow, had begun to wilt and was thought less fierce, less intense.  And sometimes, striding around in the fading light, pursuing the shapes that flickered about me as I moved, like a dog its tail, I’d keep on walking, going around and around, for thirty or forty minutes – even longer when I thought I’d get away with it.

Occasionally my pace became really quite boisterous, as I tried hard to burn off all the excess energy stored up in my body, where it had accumulated, like a dead weight, during the long, dull hours of my enforced inactivity.  But more often than not, a sense of lethargy having settled, like a damp, aching pain, too deeply in my bones, I would just sit, thinking, on a small slatted bench, sitting in the corner by the shed at the lawn’s far end.

And I can see myself now, a boy, pale and weedy, sitting quite still, in the shade, fixed in my posture like some cheap garden ornament, a mildewed statue.  And I watch the insects, bees and butterflies, as, full of energy, they busy themselves around the sprawling mallow, pushing in and out of its heart-shaped flowers, tiny tongues clapping faintly upon their petalled bells.  They look a little drunk, as I must, my eyes half-closed, dozing in the self-dissolving stillness of the slow summer air.

The flower of my youth.

 

And it’s a tiny spider that, some while later, stirs me, tickling my neck and ears before tiptoeing up the side of my face and up into the thick matting of my hair, from which it dangles, precariously, suspended on one of its fine silvery wires as if swinging on a rope.  It’s a money spider and, unlike almost any other kind of spider, it holds no fear for me.  I pick it up, gently, with my hand, circling it three times around my head in the hope of future riches.  And I play with it in my fingers, nudging it from one hand to the other.  And then, after a while, I flip my hands over, now holding them with the palms facing upwards, and watch as it scurries, the spider, like a tiny dot in the web of my eye, along the lines of my life.  Eventually it heads for the tip of a finger, continuing on its way with dogged determination until, to my delight, it appears to stride out into the air, like a cartoon character which walks, without noticing, off the edge of a precipitous cliff.  I swing it towards the borders, at a group of huddled up hollyhock, and soon it’s lost within a soft, downy embrace of chubby pink flowers.

 

So another of my daily pleasures, to which I attended without fail, was to devote myself, in earnest contemplation, to the study of the various flowers that made up my company in the garden, my eyes growing wide like their round, honey-combed centres, looking at them with enormous pleasure, entirely absorbed.  And making circles on the lawn, I would inspect them as if they’d been assembled for a special parade, my pride and joy, memorizing their various plant names, my lips moving little, like my breath, as I read them, aloud, from the small plastic labels which poked out from the pots and tubs like slim white fingers growing up from the earth.

These containers were clustered in carefully arranged groups at the edge of the small, square area of lawn which formed the centre of the garden, its grass a watery green, recently cut, in my memory, and smelling beautifully fresh.  Their names and their colours enchanted me as my eyes fell among them:  monkey-flowers and white swans, for example;  blanket flowers and fragrant phlox;  red, pink and white asters;  golden yellow achillea and blood-drop emlets;  pixie lilies and chrysanthemums;  violet and purple petunia;  pink begonias and scarlet geraniums.  There were also multi-coloured Mexican dahlias, which seemed to me to be waving, in a neighbourly sort of way, towards the proud yellow clematis, standing nearby.  And then red nasturtium, trailing bright;  and hydrangeas, so frilly and theatrical.  Further around were some Californian poppies, their silky flowers washed in a vivid, sun-rich orange;  also pot marigolds, proud and solitary, scorched a deep golden-yellow;  and the claret coloured cosmos, with its velvety petals exuding an intoxicating aroma of rich, dark chocolate, like an expensive scent.  And finally there were the lovely pale blue flowers of a delphinium, its ghostly robes appearing almost transparent, delicate like the wings of a butterfly.  I knew them all.

And I watch myself bend down towards them, crouching close as if in conference, leaning forward into their blossoms and hovering suspended at their open mouths, like a bird, my body slightly swaying as in a breeze, swooning as from a nectary kiss.  And occasionally I take a flower gently by its stem, trying to count the number of its petals, like a scientist recording data, a look of quiet concentration falling silently across my face.  I count first in one direction, and then, to verify my results, I begin again, but this time I work in the opposite direction, counting first clockwise, then anti-clockwise:  six, twelve, eighteen, twenty, twenty-four, twenty-six, and so on.  But I find, after a while, that my figures begin to conflict.  I get muddled about which petal is number one:  the beginning and the end.  And then eventually I give up and forget altogether about the counting, as my attention simply wanders from one lovely flower to the next.  And softly I stroke their petals with my fingers, feeling for the subtle differences in their textures, enjoying the touch of their glossy, silken surfaces, and watching as my hands appear to mix their colours together, working in the various pigments of each petally canvas, my fingers smoothing over them like a wash, spreading their brightness into the corners of my eyes, as if my hands were really brushes, painting on the colours with my touch.

I straighten my back and then inhale deeply, filling my lungs with the scented air of a dozen different flowers, their perfume lingering in my nose like incense, suffused with fragrance.  And I close my eyes, holding them shut for several seconds, tightly, before again I open them, shocking myself with the sudden carnival of colour which bursts before me into a spectacular, hallucinogenic vision, as if the flowers are blossoming as I look, shooting into the air like miniature explosions of dazzling light, the riot of bright colour appearing to swarm before my eyes like bees, then suddenly stinging and painful.

I open my mouth, wide, as if to scream.

And then I close my eyes.

I don’t want to see anymore:  I’ve had enough.

I want it to end:  that’s all.

But my eyes are open.

They are closed.

Then open.

And I can’t control them:  not really.

Blinking back into my room.

My room.

My memory …

 

And he cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down:  he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.

 

And this room I’m in now is rather bare:  austere.

It’s a place to rest the mind.

Imagine.

And it’s been my deliberate intention to keep it simple.

Although I’ve failed.

I’ve not the energy.

So that things still reach out to me as I enter this room, vying for my eyes, my attention.

Things encroach.

Blankets.

Clothes.

Books.

And it creeps up on you.

This mess.

Slowly.

Slowly.

And I can’t escape it.

There isn’t the time.

And all these things just make my eyes feel heavy.  And must I really carry them around in my sight?  Like cases stuffed full.  I want to close them but can’t.

And I’d like to get rid of everything.

To clear the space totally.

Item by item.

Throw it all out.

Empty it.

Cut free of its weight.
So that the room I really wish for is a clear, blank space.

It’s an empty room.

It’s a room containing nothing.

Although, bursting with possibility:  it has the space for everything.

I take a deep breath:  the air is so clear and so fresh.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Wait:  be patient …

The floor is from pine:  smooth and solid.

And I can walk here freely, creating patterns with my feet …

I can dance.

And sing.

And I can sing the songs of my room …

In which the words at last sound clearly.

And beautiful, I recognize.

I hear them.

And the walls, I should add, are like windows:  the ceiling too.

So the space feels boundless.

As if, walking from its centre, one could never hope to reach its limits.

So I look around.

The sun shines in this room.

And the nights are clear.

And from wherever I sit I see the sky, which is infinite.

 

But still I hear a voice.

I can hear a voice, speaking:  speaking as if reading aloud from something that has already been written.  And I listen …

 

Mine, I suppose, was a lonely sort of childhood, shrouded in a solitude which at times seemed absolute.  But still:  I enjoyed my walks in the garden.  They did me good:  it’s true.  They helped me sing.

 

And I close my eyes:  my memory.

Imagine …

And then directly I can see you.

It’s like a film, don’t you see?

Cut!

Cut!

And I see you again.

Each time.

And I wish we’d met both earlier and later than in fact we did.

Which is to say only this:  it is so easy for me to imagine us having been together.

Together when we were young, for example:  we were like children, really.

Although I know that I didn’t know you then:  not then, when I was young.

And I was always alone.

I know.

Alone:  always alone.

And so I had to invent you.

Do you see?

I had no choice.

Although I know …

Still now it’s as if I see you.

Do see you.

And again and again I see you.

Looking back.

My memory.

Cut!

Cut!

And I see you as if you alone are my memory:  now so focused upon the past.

And, as if what we thought of as our love, those few precious years of early adulthood, in fact represented no more and no less than a childhood romance:  a tale from a past fast fading long into time.

And so long.

It has been so long now.

Can you imagine?

Looking.

Lost.

Your eyes.

And you stand alone in a field, walking slowly towards me like a figure from a dream.

I think:  ‘You are my dream.  I’m dreaming you:  I’m dreaming.’

But to begin with you maintain a discreet distance:  guarding your space.  You will not be drawn until you’re entirely ready, it’s clear.  And instead you pace around like some animal, pinning me with your looks, daring and defiant, fearsome in beauty.  You’re like a fighter spooking his opponent, eyeing him up, staring him down, waiting, stalking.  And I am spooked:  I know it.  I’m utterly lost in you:  transparent, invisible.

I sit swaying on a swing, quiet now, rocking gently forwards and backwards, feigning a cocky indifference, looking away, waiting.

Until finally you step forward.  First one step:  then another.  And as gradually you come closer I turn my head:  I watch you, I wait for you.  But once our eyes meet … Once our eyes meet they are lost:  lapping lost like separate liquids that, in their meeting, form at once a single flow and together are gone.

Yet still I see.

And I watch you as your face then slowly opens for a smile.

And I smile too.

Then suddenly you are laughing and jumping around.  Teasing, provocative.  Running circles and circles around me.  And you oblige me to respond to you:  I have no choice.  Get up and run:  get up and run … Chasing around and around.

But the grass is still dewy and you slip.  And immediately our roles are reversed.  So that now it’s you running away, hardly able to breathe for laughing, as I race behind you, reaching out.  And I’m shouting:  ‘I shall catch you, I shall catch you!  You’ll never get away!  And then you’ll be mine – you’ll be my prisoner forever!  And I shall be yours!’

But did I really say that?

My prisoner …

Yours …

I wonder.

Running and running and running.

Going on and on.

Playing hide and seek and touch and flee day after day after endless summer day…

And your laughter rippling like a breeze across the surface of the grass.

How I loved it when you laughed.  It felt so beautiful to hear and to see it.  Your laughter.  And your eyes lit up so wonderfully.  And I felt so happy.  Do you remember?

And you?

Yes.

Look …

And you poke your finger at me, a threat, while moulding your features into a whole troupe of grotesque, mocking faces, always laughing and still laughing such laughter that I shall never ever forget:  I’m sure.

‘Look at you!’, you say.

‘What a sight you are – as if you’ve been dragged backwards through a hedge!’

And my cheeks burn red as my hands move instinctively to my hair.  And it’s true that my hair feels matted and dirty.  I feel around with my fingers and manage to pick out a leaf and a piece of twig – as if my hair were made from these things.  And when I look down at my clothes I see that they, too, are covered in burrs and sweethearts.

I lift my head and look up at you, coyly, from behind my eyes.

‘Are you jealous, is that it – jealous of all my loves?’

A snort of derision.

‘Ha!  Dream on!’

And I am standing beside you:  I place my hand in yours.

‘Listen’, I say.

‘I am green and brown and my skin is like bark.  And I boast leaves for hair and branches for arms and twigs for fingers.  And my roots dig deeply into the depths of the earth.  They embrace the enormity of the world with their searching, fibrous tentacles:  yet nor do they forget you, in their touch, nor I.  And all this because I grow as a tree from the dark earth.  And in spirit you must know that I’m a creature of the woods, quite wild and beyond control – so beware!’

I pull some strange faces of my own and embark on a series of peculiar willowy tree-like movements until we’re each bent double in a fit of giggles.

Then for a while we walk.

And as we are walking the grass beneath our feet, dry now from the warmth of the morning, seems so soft and forgiving, like a lush green carpet, that it’s impossible not to slip down into it, rolling ourselves out, bathing in the sun.  And we sit there for what feels like a long, delicious age:  whispering and laughing and sharing all our secret thoughts and dreams.

Lazily I place a buttercup beneath your chin and try to tickle you with it.  I hold it up to the sky where it seems to magnify into a vast golden orb.

And then I lie back:  staring out into the sun.  And, beyond my squinting, I imagine the sun’s rays arrowing out this way and that like some fiery god drawn out from the dusty pages of an old leather book, well weathered and worn.  And I listen:  I listen to the sound of your laughter.  And then, after a while, to the sound of your breathing.  And so we lie here flat upon our backs, feeling heavy in the summer heat, and drawn down ever deeper into the earth.  And we’re entirely still as we lie here, as if it’s just the earth itself that is breathing:  its breath making our noses tingle as the air flows in and out.  And thoughts float gently, quietly, through my mind like the light, wispy clouds passing high above.  And I watch the sun as it rolls so slowly across the sky.  And I wish that these moments would last forever.  It feels so right to be here beside you, so good.  My love.

But you begin at last to stir, your body rustling, pushing yourself up upon your elbows.

I watch you.

And you start to pick daisies.  I do the same.

And in a few moments we’ve made ourselves two long chains of flowers.  One of these I place over your head, adopting what I hope to be a dignified and ceremonious appearance.  ‘You shall be my queen!’, I say.  ‘And I your king.’

You laugh and look honoured.

I feel around in the grass with my fingers, searching out another daisy until at last I find one that pleases me and gently pick it, its stem held tightly between my finger and thumb.  This flower I keep to myself, like a secret.  I look at it for a while, as if it possesses some mystery which I cannot understand.  This tiny little flower is truly a lovely thing, I think:  a lovely, lovely thing.  But already I’ve picked it:  I’m not sure why.  Plucking at the petals one by one.  It’s dying.  And speaking softly, as if to myself …

She loves me.

She loves me not.

She loves me.

She loves me not.

And then, a little behind my own, I hear your voice, softly resonant, an echo on a summer’s day.

He loves me.

He loves me not.

He loves me.

He loves me not …

And I feel you so close.  And our bodies so near.

In my memory.

And it was almost as if we breathed in the same time, at the same time, the same air, sharing the same breath.

And I turn my head and look back at you.

I look into your eyes.

And after a while I say:  ‘Your eyes are perfect ovals, like the shape of two leaves.’

But I don’t know why:  why speak?  And suddenly I feel so tentative, unsteady – as if nervous and confused.

And then, in retreat, as if frightened by the sudden strength of my feelings, I play the fool.  And looking again into your eyes, I act as if I’m about to hypnotize you, or else you me:  the points of the eyes moving regularly from side to side, in rhythm, swaying back and forth like a metronome.  And a battle of wills begins in which we both stare and stare, staring the other into looking away.  But you blink first and so lose.  It’s silly, but I can’t stop laughing:  I laugh for ages.  And throw up my eyes, in delight, towards the sky.

‘I feel so happy,’ I tell you.

‘Me too.’

And I’m looking at you.  Your eyes.  My eyes.  And I watch you as you watch me.  And I can see myself in your eyes.  As you can in mine.  Your eyes.  My eyes.  As in a mirror:  our eyes.  And I know that it’s only within our eyes, our two sets of eyes, that this feeling, this extraordinary feeling of wonderment, will ever truly be possible.  Only within our eyes that we seem to see ourselves fully, as we can be, at best, as really we are.  And I wonder at what this means …

The sun, meanwhile, is glittering in your hair and for a moment I’m sure that my hand will burn if I reach out with it to touch you.  But I can’t hold back:  I can’t resist you.  So close.  So I reach out my arm and, very gently, I brush my hand through your hair which appears to be changing colour, as I do so, from gold to red to silver to black to brown.  And for some reason I’m surprised at the way it feels – as if I’m touching you for the very first time.  It feels cool, like water – like running your hand through a mountain stream in summer.  And my fingers trickle slowly down your face and then I’m holding you in my arms.  Our lips are now touching.  And I close my eyes.  The touch of your tongue is like a flower held gently between my teeth, gently moving:  your taste sweet, as if your breath had somehow condensed in the heat of our love, flowing warming within me, a taste of nectar in my throat.  So that at last we kiss.  My love.  At last.

Do you remember?

 

Yes.

I remember.

But these are words.

Only words …

Words and words:  so few, so many.

And will there ever be enough?

I wonder.

To say what wants to be said.

Crying out, in silence, for a voice …

I doubt it.

 

And all these old books:  there are books literally everywhere.

And looking through them again I rediscovered some of the stories from my childhood.

100 Tales For Children …

This, too, was one of my very favourite books when I was young.

I was surprised to find it:  I felt sure I’d thrown it away.

No:  I wouldn’t have thrown it away.

But I thought it mislaid.

So many years had passed …

Looking back.

And my parents had just seemed to fade away, further and further, into the background of my life, becoming invisible, dim in the dark distance, remote, forgotten, until, one soon after the other, they disappeared altogether, gone forever.  And to clear various household and medical bills, not to mention the cost of their funeral and burial arrangements, it was necessary to sell the family home, and quickly.  Not that the house was worth much by that stage.  The estate had gone to ruin.  And only the desperate, distracted by their circumstances, thought to live there:  no one in their right mind would ever do so.

Anyway:  I assumed that it was during this period that the book had been mislaid.  As if I’d lost it along with my parents, my home, my reason to return, my past …  All buried with the dead.

My copy is well-thumbed and tatty looking:  an old-fashioned edition bound with hard card and stuffed with thick leafed paper.

And did you once read to me, from its stories, as I drifted slowly into sleep?

 

But no:  not you.

I didn’t know you then.

I didn’t know you.

Did I?

And how could I have done?

No.

It’s not my fault.

It was my mother.

Do you see?

Do you remember?

 

My dear departed mother.

And there were occasions, thank God, when she spared me the usual nightmarish fare of ghosts and ghouls, spirits of the night, demons of the darkness.  These were the evenings when the choice of a story was mine alone.

Tales for Children.

The voice of my mother.

Yet in my imagination it’s you …

I hear you.

So lovely.

That voice.

 

You said …

Look here at these beautiful drawings.

This one’s the young boy:  look at his golden yellow hair …

It was his birthday.

And on his birthday he received a box of twenty-five wonderful tin soldiers, all decked out, as if for a parade, in military caps, a dense black in colour, and with smart matching uniforms of white, red, and blue.  And so similar did they look that no one soldier could easily be distinguished from the rest, all his friends in the company, either in terms of his immaculate appearance, or else in view of his bearing, always upright and proud.  So close, in fact, was the resemblance between them that the little boy was sure that they were all of them brothers.

Can you imagine?

Look …

He inspected them more closely …

Hang on!

Here was one soldier, at least, who, despite being dressed like the others, was clearly quite different.  Look at this picture …  It’s of the soldier who is different to the rest.  He’s only got one leg, can you see?  Still, he’s standing on it proudly:  it sets him apart.

And here’s another picture …

He’s alone now on the mantelpiece where the little boy has placed him, a proud and solitary figure.  And he’s mesmerized, as he stands there, by the beauty of the little cardboard dancing girl who, from his higher vantage point, he’s noticed immediately, pirouetting on a table in the centre of the room.  To the simple tin soldier it looks as if the dancing girl, like him, has only one leg:  it’s a thought that pleases him, filling him with hope and courage and a dream of company.  But of course her other leg is simply tucked up beneath the full pleats of the soft white dress which she wears when dancing, drawn in at the waist with a golden star.  The tin soldier had failed to notice this.  His thoughts were too distracted:  he’d fallen in love.

‘She is so beautiful’, sighed the soldier.  ‘And I should like so very much for her to one day be my wife’.

Then abruptly he was struck by the thought that this pretty little dancing girl, the girl that he loved, looking so exquisite as she rotated in his eyes, playing music in his thoughts, must live in the great big toy castle standing grand and imposing on the table behind her.  And this thought shook him violently, forcing him back upon himself, making him reflect not only upon his own current situation, but also on his prospects, such as they were, for the future.

Look:  poor man …

His thoughts settled on what passed as his own home:  a home which, for a tin soldier on active service was little more, at best, than a humble tin box.  And he felt uncomfortable at the thought of his poverty, and withdrew into the shadows of an ugly old tobacco jar, grotesque by his side, as if to hide his sense of shame.  And there he stood, alone, with only the dream of a romance for company, a dream which seemed so sad now, in its way.  Although he still looked out, secretly, from afar, at the girl that he loved with all his heart, spinning around and around in his thoughts.

Lost in his wistful reflections, the tin soldier himself seemed almost to jump from his uniform in surprise, as a noisy and know it all jack-in-the-box sprang suddenly high into the air, colourful in his belled green and yellow cap, and carrying a small wooden sceptre, like a jester.  Immediately he began to mock the tin soldier for his air of devotion.

‘Keep your eyes to yourself!’, he taunted, as he bobbed up and down on his spring, an idiotic grin painted red across his face.  ‘I can see you!  I can see you!  Keep your eyes to yourself!  Keep your eyes to yourself!’

The tin soldier felt embarrassed and tried hard to turn his head from the girl who continued to dance alone in front of the castle.  Except that he couldn’t:  it seemed impossible.  And no matter how hard he tried, his eyes were drawn back irresistibly towards her:  his focus was on her and on her alone.

The next day, promptly with the full arrival, bright, of the morning, the boy decided to move his one-legged tin soldier, who was now his favourite, from the mantelpiece, where he had stood, alone, all night, to the large white ledge of the window.

But the wind picked up as the day progressed …

And shortly the shutters themselves blew open, leaving the little tin soldier trembling in the cold and longing for the warmth of the fire beneath him, his loved one still in sight.  And with these thoughts forming vividly in his mind, precarious although his position already was, he tried, as hard as he could, to hold on.  But his grip was not firm and the wind was gusting strong:  he could soon feel himself moving, being inched along by the wind, blowing fiercely around the sides of the house.  And eventually he could hold on no longer.  And as he felt his resistance ebbing inevitably away, his one good leg was suddenly kicked from beneath him, knocking him sideways, face flat upon the sill, from where, a moment later, he was taken up again in another great gust of wind and this time blown out, directly, through the window, falling fast, head first, for what seemed like an age:  down and down and down and down.  Until at last he hit the ground and stood there, dazed, in the long, wild grass of the garden, feeling suddenly so little and so lost, and telling himself, over and over again as if to shore up his spirits:  ‘Be brave!  Be brave!’

But then it began to rain, look …

The heavens are opening up above the words!

And on this page, this one here, you can feel that the paper is thick, feel it for yourself, if you like, as if it’s heavy with water …

And here the picture is of the lonely tin soldier, looking wide-eyed and bedraggled, a droplet of rain falling silently, like a tear, from his wind reddened face.

Do you see?

Two ragged young boys, playing truant from school and passing by, furtively, along the path, were the first to spot the tin soldier, lost in the overgrown grass and looking forlorn and unhappy.  And immediately they thought they’d have a game:  a game at the soldier’s expense.  And so they picked him up and carried him off, laughing at his messy appearance and his one stiff leg, damp and stained with mud.

Their first thought was to make him a boat from a sheet of thin paper:  they’d launch it in the stream, they agreed, and then watch it as it sailed down towards the river and then away, perhaps, to sea.  And the tin soldier struggled to be brave, keeping his eyes to the front and trying hard not to blink, as he listened to the two boys talk, their arms waving around in their excitement, like windmills.  But you could see from his face that secretly he was scared.  He’d never travelled in a boat before and nor could he swim:  he was a soldier, after all, not a sailor.  Although he tried to buoy himself up by recalling that, even among sailors, the ability to swim was thought bad luck.  So he screwed up his courage and hoped for the best.

Once the boat had been launched in the local stream, beginning quickly to pick up speed, and fanned by the manic waving arms of the two boys, who jeered him goodbye, the thought, vague and watery, loomed large before him, that he’d really no idea of to where he was headed or, similarly, turning with the boat, alone, to face it, of what the future might still hold in store for him.  The only thing that seemed unequivocally sure was the sight, now stolen away, of the one-legged dancing girl, standing so lovely in his memory, in her pretty white dress, and his longing, terrible although it was, once more to be near her.  And the dull ache of his desire, growing more intense and desperate the further it flowed from its source, became still worse and worse, as the likelihood of his ever seeing her again, even just once, for a moment, appeared increasingly remote.  And this was a thought that stretched his endurance intolerably, dangerously weakening it, so that the heaviness of his heart, weighed down with sadness, now seemed too much for him to bear, as if his sorrow itself would be enough to sink him.

And the paper boat, rushing faster and faster through the river, towards the sea, wasn’t strong enough for the powerful currents that forced it along, and soon it was taking in water, its sides dropping low beneath the surface.  And the little tin soldier, drawn down towards his own desperate reflection in the liquid mirror sliding swiftly beneath him, began to feel sure that he would drown.  And at last he succumbed to what seemed so inevitable, the boat crumpling away beneath him, as suddenly he was plunged, breathless, into the freezing cold water.  He fell heavily, like a rock, not even trying to swim.  Even if he’d had the skill he still couldn’t have done so, he realized, as his arms, in any case, were cramped to his side, and his one stiff leg was as good as useless:  he was sure to die.

But his fate seemed instead still worse than simple death, suddenly taking on the ominous form, as it did, of a gigantic fish which came looming up towards him as he fell, slicing through the water with its long sharp snout, its huge eyes bearing down upon him like two great weights, rippling darkly in the current.  Swimming nearer and nearer, it began gradually to open its vast ugly mouth, its long sharp teeth glinting, now and then, in the little light still strong enough to penetrate the water’s murky depths.  And then it swallowed him whole in one enormous great gulp, its teeth snapping shut like a trap.

Then an extraordinary series of events occurred, one after another, like a chain of wonders.  So that soon after the soldier had been swallowed and, coughing and choking, started to suffocate in the dank, slimy stomach closing slowly around him, the great fat fish, always greedy to gobble up everything in its sight, found itself pierced by a long, sharp hook, dangling unexpectedly from its lip.  And this hook was attached to a long line of cord, by which the fish was pulled towards the shore, against its will, by a local fisherman, tugging hard at his catch as he dragged it, writhing, from the sea.

The fisherman, of course, looking forward to telling his friends of his success, was quite delighted by his good fortune.  And he looked at his fish with pride:  the prize for all his patience.  He especially admired its size, and the colour in its markings and their pretty pattern, for a moment coming close to throwing it back to the sea, thinking it a shame for it to die.  He let out a sigh, as if reflecting on the harsh cruelties of life, then killed it with a single blow, watching as briefly it twitched in his hands, then slipped through his fingers, dropping down, dead, into his bag.

The fish was taken immediately to the market, from where it was picked out by an elderly lady, kindly natured and rosy-cheeked, who paid for it directly, without even pausing for a moment to try to haggle with the merchant for a bargain.  She was the cook at one of the grand, imposing houses which lined the elegant streets of the centre of the town.  And, as such, she knew better than to hang around when there was work to be done:  so she hurried back to the house with a speed somewhat surprising for her age.

Once she’d settled herself in the kitchen, she scrubbed her hands, set out her utensils, then began directly to prepare the fish, cutting it open, lengthways, with a long, sharp knife.  But as she did so, her knife struck something unexpectedly hard, making a slight scraping sound which jarred on her ears, causing her to wince.  She really had no choice but to slice around whatever it was, cutting more gently, this time, through the still wet, silvery skin of the freshly caught fish.  And, as she did so, she was astonished to find, in amongst the mess of its innards as they sprawled across the table, an object that never in a million years would she have imagined coming tumbling out from the tummy of a fish, like an oracle.  It was a tiny toy figure.

‘It looks like a soldier’, the cook thought, a look of astonishment still set upon her face, ‘a little tin soldier like those of the boy’.

‘Quick!  Come and look at this!’, she called.  ‘I found it in this fish here:  it’s a tin soldier with just one leg – imagine it!’

The boy of the house, who liked nothing better than to linger around the kitchen before dinner, watching the cook at her work, and helping her whenever she let him, came quickly at her call and saw at once that what she was holding, tightly, in her hand, was his lost tin soldier.  And he cried out in the sudden thrill of the cook’s discovery, ecstatic at being reunited with his favourite toy.  ‘It’s mine!  It’s mine!’ he called out, again and again, running circles around the cook in his excitement, his eyes open wide with pleasure.  And the little tin soldier, too, despite all that he’d been through, now thought himself the luckiest tin soldier in all the whole wide world.

And then the boy, to dry out his courageous little traveller, still drenched from his adventures, during the course of the evening and the night, placed him in the heat of the large, hungry fire that roared noisily in the grate, standing him back upon the mantelpiece as he’d done once already, not so long before.  And the happiness of the soldier seemed complete as, from the height of his vantage point, he could warm himself again in the radiant beauty of the one-legged dancing girl who he thought that perhaps he loved, if it were possible, even more now than before, a thought which made his cheeks glow red.  And once more, determined not to lose her for a second time, he fixed his eyes, tenderly, upon her.

But as he did so, dreaming that soon he would be standing by her side, a powerful sensation swept swiftly through his body, as if her sight, for a moment, had slipped suddenly across him, like a soft, caressing hand, making him tremble at her touch.  And after this one glance, so briefly stolen, the little tin soldier began to gaze at his loved one more intently than ever.  And he became sure, after a while, that the beautiful dancing girl, for her part, was looking also at him, a little more furtively, perhaps, less boldly than he himself, but looking nonetheless.  And it was only her gaze, he supposed, that made him stand, as if on parade, feeling tall and handsome, so proud in his freshly scrubbed uniform.  And his heart, as she watched him, beat faster and faster beneath its metallic material, seeming steadily to expand in the increasing heat, swelling as if fit to burst.

‘She loves me’, he whispered, a broad smile spreading out across his face, the words as if singing in his mind.  ‘She really does love me’.  And he felt so happy that, for a moment, at least, he thought he’d died and gone to heaven.

But then, as the little tin soldier kept on looking towards his lover, the two of them caught up in their mutual gaze, lost in their longing, he felt suddenly so strange.  His body seemed to get still hotter and hotter, his eyes as if bubbling in his head, boiling with desire.  And he began to feel dizzy and faint.  ‘It’s just my love that’s making me giddy’, he thought to himself.  ‘It’s my love that makes me giddy:  it sets me ablaze’.

Although his eyes were clearly watering, and sweat, too, was streaming from his face and body.  And he soon felt drenched from head to toe, the ground seeming slippery, his single foot unsteady.  And he began to feel sick, his body becoming fluid, as if slipping away from him.  And it was as if he were melting:  his eyes melting first as, straining still towards his lover, they flowed from his head in a glowing red heat.  Until finally he realized that he really had slipped:  he really had slipped down from his position on the mantelpiece.  And that now he was falling, his beloved too, their look of love seeming to bind them physically, their fate now shared and sealed.  And as they continued to fall, rushing headlong into the great fire below, snapping and snarling and so soon to engulf them, they each held their sight still steadily upon the other, their eyes melting together as they burned.

And here’s the final picture.

Would you like to see it?

It’s the following morning.  The sweet young boy with the golden yellow hair is standing again at the fireplace.  His tear-filled eyes staring empty into the ashes.  The fingers of his hands are closed tightly around two small objects.  A tiny tin heart, in one hand.  And then, in the other, a bright golden star.

Such are my memories.

 

And it happened so suddenly.

The unthinkable.

My memory …

As if it must be lying.

It must be.

And I lose you.

Your eyes.

My love.

As if lost within the sky.

Falling.

And falling.

And falling.

 

And my words.

Falling.

They too are falling …

Droplets of sound and silence, sadness and tears.

And my mouth still moving.

The words still forming, falling …

In my mind, like echoes …

And the words still echoing:  echoes of my memory.

Do you remember?

 

‘Get out of my sight!’

 

‘Get out of my sight!’

 

Cut!

 

Cut!

 

 

And then:

It’s over.

It’s over.

 

 

And yes, I love you too:  of course I love you.

Always and forever.

I love you.

You said.

I love you.

 

 

And I’m reminded of your letters.

I think to search them out:  to read them again.

But I know them all by heart.

Already.

Locked away in my memory.

Vivid as a dream.

 

And in my dream, you said …

 

I see a vision.

A vision of two white swans:  so lovely and so beautiful.

They raise themselves up from the water so that it looks almost as if they’re dancing upon its surface, slow moving, silvery.

And, as they dance, they entwine their necks.

They entwine their necks around and around each other, again and again.

It’s so beautiful.

And so beautiful as to form tears in the eye, cleansing them.

Swans mate for life:  did you know that?

And each year they court each other all over again, renew their vows, mate, as if for the very first time …

And as if time becomes sculptural.

A moment.

Still …

 

‘Don’t ever forget me’, you said.

‘Don’t ever forget me’.

The words, still falling …

 

And these voices are like echoes.

But it’s in my mind:  the noise.

It drives me mad …

Do you see?

 

I search for signs.

And in my mind I read your letters:  walk through your words, once more, in my memory …

Although the words by themselves are not enough.

I don’t think so.

I don’t know.

But I listen as you speak.

And this is what you say …

Listen.

 

I’d like to write to you in whispers, blowing softly to your ears, to speak to you in kisses and talk in touch.  And I’d like to be quiet with you; to lose my tongue within the soft depths of your lips, lost in their lapping murmuring, swept away within a sea of love, and then washed up, still dripping with desire, still wet, into the warmth of your arms, your bright eyes like light, and the slopes and curves of your arms and back like golden sands beneath my body, burning with hot blood.

 

And I’d like to surround you with tender words:  words of my love.

Words that will make you feel warm, keep you company.

Words that I can wrap around your mind.

Words like wishes …

In your sleep.

I can write them in the stillness of the night.

And you can read them in the morning …

 

And I do read them.

I read them now, in my memory …

I look.

I listen.

I search for signs.

 

Thank you for opening my eyes.

You said.

Again.

And again and again and again.

I need you to do that.

 

Thank you for opening my eyes.

As if you woke me in the night …

The darkness.

 

And thank you too for opening your eyes:  and then for keeping your eyes so open, so wide.

Those eyes of yours are quite amazing, I reckon …

As if they see everything and know everything.

And to me they seem infinite.

My God!

When you stand there watching me …

Your eyes so strong, accepting everything.

Patient, waiting …

You are wonderful.

No.

Not wonderful.

There isn’t an adjective in the English language which can properly describe you.

Or your eyes.

Although today I tried.

I did try.

I wrote a poem to your eyes.

For your eyes …

And only for your eyes.

But I’m not going to show it to yet.

I haven’t finished it.

Maybe one day you will read it.

Would you like to?

My dear, sweet love …

Or are you sleeping as I write these words?

And, if you are, are you dreaming?

But these words are coming out in fits and starts …

And I’m sorry for that.

There’s so much I’d like to say …

Your dreams, for example:  what are they, my lover?

And will they one day be real …

I wonder.

But I feel so speechless with love!

And you?

And I find it so hard to believe that you’re not just a beautiful dream:  an unimaginably beautiful dream.  And especially as the reality – my reality, our reality – seems still more wonderful and amazing with each passing day.

But listen to me:  I must stop!

Although first let me send you a kiss:  a single gentle kiss for each one of your quiet sleeping eyes …

 

And I open my eyes.

I look up and there you are.

As if love at first sight.

And all the old clichés …

We were every one of them.  For those first few years, at least.

It’s true.

And I was captivated by you from the moment that I first set eyes upon you:  your eyes took me prisoner.

So that I couldn’t see what was happening.

I was blind.

And lost:  the darkness …

And love is always blind.

Or so they say.

Always.

 

And my precious jewel …

Thank you for the rose.

It still seems perfect.

And the red as if deeper each day …

And our love, too, is perfect like the rose.

And more so …

Don’t you think?

 

Yes.

And today is a completely beautiful day:  I’m feeling really blissfully happy.

I’ve been trying to read a book.

But I can’t stop thinking about you.

Earlier, for example, I was sitting with my hands in my lap.  My left hand was resting in my right hand when suddenly my right hand (and then my brain) thought:  ‘Goodness!  I’m holding someone’s hand:  to whom can it belong?  I looked down and saw that really it was my own hand, but I was expecting to see and to touch yours …

And I should like very much to feel your fingers once more interlocked in mine.

Or rather …

I want to cover you with millions of kisses on each of your hands.

But not only on your fingers, your hands, but also on each of your closed eyes, on your nose too, and on your toes as well, and on your beautifully strong legs, and to be at home in your arms again, and to watch you as you open your eyes in the morning …

And I’d like to roll over and over in your arms in the earth and the sea and the sky …

And you?

What do you think?

Shall we?

And I’m at a bit of a loss to know what to do with myself, to be honest.

Everything I do and everywhere I go I feel as though you are with me.  I feel as though you are with me every second of the day and the night.  And it’s the most wonderful feeling imaginable …

Although at the same time it makes it rather difficult to concentrate:  impossible, actually!

And the world seems so gloriously strange …

I hope that it’s a bit the same for you, my love.

It certainly should be.

Listen.

In my thoughts I’m with you all the time.

I think about you constantly.

Wondering where you are, what you’re doing …

And it’s as if we’re a circle, you and I, eternally intertwined.

And so that our love seems infinitely large.

But can you understand what I’m stumbling to say?

I want to sink into your arms with a completely open heart …

But I don’t feel vulnerable:  I’m only a little bit scared.

Not with you beside me …

My love:  shall we hold each other close for the rest of our lives?

I’d like to.

And now that I’ve met you I feel that I shall never again be lonely, not ever …

We’ll marry and have children and live happily ever after …

A thought that makes me dance with delight.

But really …

I’m looking out of the window again.

And laughing.

Daydreaming.

In the autumn the trees begin to undress for the winter.

The branches of the trees are stripped naked, bare as if bathing in the sun.

And the sky looks so clear and blue …

 

And I feel I could sleep.

I could sleep for a hundred years.

And partly it’s because at times I feel so calm and contented that drifting into sleep seems the most natural thing in the world;  and partly because at times I feel so tired, so confused …

Right now, for example, I’m thinking about what you said about how sometimes you find it so difficult to sleep …

Without your love I’ll never sleep …

You said.

But when I go to sleep I can almost feel your nose touching mine and I can almost hear your breathing – but then, if I actually felt and heard these things, I’m sure (right now) that I would never be able to fall asleep.  So that either way one of us will suffer from insomnia, I suppose.

But clearly it’s important that we sleep.

And right now I feel so tired …

I certainly don’t feel as if I’m making much sense, at any rate.

Are you managing to follow me, at least?

And I wonder:  will you be bothered to follow me in the future?

But what am I saying?

I’m sorry, my sweet …

Forgive me.

And now I can’t sleep either.

 

But still:  I wonder.

And I want to ask you …

If we both reach out our arms towards each other, then lock our hands, we shall always be together, won’t we?

And I know that one day without you in the whole of my future would destroy me.

And I hope that you know that too.

And I hope that you know that.

But …

 

‘Don’t ever forget me’, you said.

‘Don’t ever forget me’.

The words still falling …

 

And in my mind I read your letters.

I search for signs.

I look.

I listen …

 

But how can I begin this letter?

What should I say?

How can I help you, for example, to stop feeling so frightened about the future?

Have you been out today?

Have you seen the deep blue sky:  the colour of your eyes?

Have you felt the sun on your face?

Or the wind?

And have you watched the dance of the many coloured leaves, blown around in the air, in the sky?

Or have you heard the birds singing?

Or the trees?

And have you seen yourself lately?

Have you looked down at your beautiful body?

Heard yourself breathing?

Felt the movement of your limbs …

And smiled?

And have you felt my hand in yours?

My arms around you?

Have you felt me carrying you?

Or have you just been working?

Again and again:  work, nothing but work.

All work and no play …

Too hard:  you work too hard …

You’re always working.

And I know you’d like to write:  to find a language for all these songs bubbling away within your soul, these impressions, these visions, this life you live so fully.  And I know you’d like to write for me:  to offer me something of beauty, a beauty which for some strange reason you’re convinced that I deserve …

But it’s doing you no good:  don’t you see that?

You should try to get out, relax, enjoy yourself a bit.

All this work …

If you ask for my opinion, you’re trying too hard …

You complain that you can’t get past the silence, somehow:  that the silence seems to stifle your need to sing as if it’s suffocating your breath.

But what can I say?

Can’t you imagine yourself a shopkeeper?

I mean:  try to keep regular hours, at least.

Open up your shop at a certain time each morning, work your allotted hours, then close.

And if the customers don’t come:  well, you’re still working, aren’t you?

I know, I know.

You must also earn money …

But it’s wearing you out.

Shivering, silent.

And have you thought to seek help?

I mean:  you cry so easily, you’re always crying at something or other …

I know that you say that it’s not always the sadness and the ugliness that makes you cry, but also the beauty and the happiness …

But I’m sure it can’t be normal.

And have you ever thought that you might be depressed?

Perhaps a doctor could help you:  a course of tablets and maybe you’d be utterly different …

It could help your work too.

But really:  you need to do something.

At the moment you’re flogging yourself to death and for what?

You say yourself you’re getting nowhere …

And it will kill you in the end:  especially if you keep going as now …

You do know that, don’t you?

It’s going to kill you …

But listen …

Do I sound too stern?

I’m concerned for you, that’s all …

And no:  you don’t need to worry.

I still love you, my little Orpheus:  of course I still love you.

And I always shall.

And don’t you forget it!

And in fact …

If you open your eyes.

You’ll see I’m standing here beside you.

Waiting.

 

And I look.

I look again.

I look everywhere …

 

But this is vertiginous.

There’s too much feeling, too quickly, for myself alone.

And I would like to take you by the hand and dance with you.  To circle around you, to move with you, fall, kiss, continue with you always.  And with our words.

But at the same time I’m young.

And this seems so serious …

And lately it feels as if we’re going in circles.

As if we’re going precisely nowhere, in fact:  I try to be really honest.

And I just don’t know …

You have your work, after all:  often I think that it’s all that you think about.

No:  I know that’s not quite fair.

But still …

What do I have?

And sometimes I feel so alone …

As if you’re elsewhere.

Absorbed in your work.

Preoccupied with your muses.

And it’s terrible for me:  don’t you see?

And I’m alive:  I’m something really living …

And I need to live …

Don’t I?

And at times I’d welcome any diversion, any relief …

And I feel as if I need some time:  that’s really what I’m saying.

I need time to reflect on what I really want.

And what is it that I really want?

After all, I’m only young …

And this seems so serious.

To get away.

To travel.

Like a breeze.

A whisper in the sky.

And I just don’t know.

 

And nervously you laugh:  I listen to its sound, this laughter.

Do you remember?

 

Yes:  I remember.

And your eyes are like a paradise.

Looking, always looking …

 

So that the afternoon slips stealthily away into evening and, like a pair of furtive lovers, the sun again runs off with her.  The day’s warmth is soon evaporated.  And at once the air seems cool – shocking.

We fall into silence as we walk.  But not, I think, an awkward silence.  We’re just a small part of the summer evening, that’s all.  As if we’ve been absorbed into its mood.  Calm and quiet.  Listening.  Waiting.

But was it really summer?

And, if so, which summer was it?

And how young would I have been?  Or old?

Or are we back within the present?

The present of those few sweet years.

Ever present.

I forget.

Yet still we keep on walking.  No longer together:  no.  But walking.  As then …

Walking on and on until eventually we reach the bench by that great old oak – our customary meeting-place, a favourite tree.

This bench we spoke of as ‘our’ bench.  It was our private domain:  exclusive to our love.

Do you remember?

And the last time that we met there we just sat silently side by side – like the bookends in that song you liked to sing.

And I ask you:

Do you remember now?

But our hands are no longer touching and our bodies feel for once quite separate:  apart.  I’m not thinking of anything in particular.

And you?

No.

Just waiting.  Listening.  Looking.

And only gradually do I become aware of the sly breeze that has started to creep quietly around us.  At first it’s a slight numbness around the ears, barely noticeable.  But then suddenly it picks up speed, circling around us like a cord, whipping us around and around and around, binding us to the air and cutting at the skin.  And the sky itself seems to darken, lowering itself into a heavy watery black:  matching our mood.  It’s one of those strange summer storms that come from nowhere, bursting forth so suddenly from the sky.  Out of the blue.

And I feel anxious.  Helpless.

And then …

‘I have to go,’ you say, ‘I have to go’.

You have to go.

You’ve had enough.

That’s all.

And …

‘So when shall I see you?’

‘Soon!’

Your voice is fading.

And then at once you are gone.

Summer to winter.

And I …

Alone.

Walking.

Walking on.

The words like weights …

I drag them with me.

Soon!

Soon!

Going on:  going on and on.

But never again.

Never again:  going on …

Do you remember?

 

Yes.

But still I ask you:  must time be always circular?

And after all, it’s only recently that I decided once again to look back:  to trace again the haunts of my old home town, like an urchin, a vagabond, passing unrecognized, unknown and utterly forgotten;  and yet knowing everyone, knowing everything, knowing all.

But what on earth has brought me back to this old bench?

To here in particular?

 

And without thinking I get up and start walking.

And I feel, at this precise moment, so old:  so terribly old and so terribly lonely.

The loss of my memories …

And I feel sick.

Like a kick in the stomach:  a stab in the heart.  A knife …

Breathless.

Bleeding.

The cuts:  cutting …

Cut!

Cut!

And yet I keep on walking.

Traipsing on and on.

My memories …

Asking:  ‘why?’

And:  ‘why?’

And at the same time knowing clearly, all the time, of course, that this is only the beginning:  this is only the beginning.

The beginning.

The end.

And as I walk I watch my shadow lengthen.  It’s more substantial than I am, I think.  More real.  And I want so badly to embrace it, to find some solace in its brooding company, some comfort.  But as my eyes look down I feel only that my strength and my hope are as if draining away from me, bled of all courage.  And I know that I, too, must go away:  drawn out irresistibly into this flickering black shadow, beckoning.

I think it my true likeness.

And ask of it, pathetically:

Where are you?

Where are you?

But of course you’ve gone already.

Of course.

But nonetheless I raise my head and look up, for a moment, searching more from habit than conviction, still scanning the skies:  hoping.

And I look for your eyes.

Your eyes above all else.

My love.

Your lovely, liquid eyes.

Like an infinity.

Of looking.

Of looking.

Lost.

‘Falling in love’, we called it.

Falling.

And falling.

But now it’s raining again.

And there’s mud on my shoes.

And my memory feels so heavy that I can hardly walk in it.

Listen …

The summer had ended:  the autumn for once forgotten.

It was the winter.

I’m sure.

I’m sure of it:  I’m certain.

It was definitely the winter.

Do you remember?

 

Yes.

Yes:  I remember.

And I remember the way that your hand reached out for me.

The way that you reach for me now.

And I hold you in my hands.

Your photograph.

The first of many.

How lovely you were.

And in your photograph you are still young.  It must have been taken about the time that we first met, I suppose.  Young and innocent.  Eighteen.  Nineteen.

Your eyes are opened wide, eager, excited:  bright in the flash of the camera.

And it’s as if you’re looking out into your future.  And to reach it sooner you’ve seated yourself close up towards the camera.  And your face is full of curiosity, wonderment.  Asking …

What will be shown in the light?

But for the moment it’s still unclear, of course:  nothing new.

Although even tomorrow will be the past:  this moment there already.

It will come …

And so your mouth hesitates to smile:  your seriousness might look better, you think.

But it’s the whites of your teeth that betray you.

And your skin seems so pale in black and white.

Although your energy is palpable.

Looking out …

And you seem so well, so happy.

But gently, memory …

Be patient.

Please.

And I hold you in my hands.

And each of these images, these photographs, are like traces:  they are signs of a history.  A mark, a line, a gathering together of shape:  impressions upon time.  And I look through them as through the past.  So that sometimes they seem like reminders that the future sends back along the lines of time:  as if it too needs a past, a memory.  Or else the opposite:  the past waving frantically towards the future.  And gathering up its things, it tries to make sense:  the past a vessel in which to travel through time.  Like signals to the not yet:  for someone or something who may yet be recognized.  A person or a moment.  A sign you were there.  Or had been.  Or were going to be, soon.

Remember me!

Remember me!

And I hold you in my hands.

A journey into the future:  lights blazing.

It’s like a dream.

These photographs are like dreams in my memory.

And there was a time during which we often stood together, as still as images, both solemn and silly, before a camera.  And then we liked to take endless miniature photographs, squashed up together, cheek to cheek, in those tiny booths which sometimes appeared unexpectedly in side streets or else were hidden away in the corner of a supermarket or department store, a train station or an airport.  And it seemed like such a source of delight at the time:  always very spontaneous and romantic.  And we laughed like mad.  Do you remember?

Although now I can’t help wondering if perhaps there was a slight edge of desperation to this obsession, as if, in this manic collection of images, we’re wondering who really we are:  who are we?  As if only our photographs could really capture us together, properly together, I mean, as if a proof to the future that once in the past our paths really had run parallel, that we really had shared our lives together, for a while, at least.  And I wonder now if it had somehow been hard, difficult for us to look at each other directly.  Perhaps it seemed easier through the mediation of a lens, as in a mirror.  But my thoughts are wandering.  And I just don’t know.

Anyway.

Our pictures taken, we stood directly outside the booth, right by where the photographs would eventually slide out, to horrify or delight us, jealously guarding this space, our waiting charged with impatience.  And the several minutes that it took for the photographs to be developed, our faces slowly forming, somewhere in the heart of this magical box of images, were always interminable – a torture!  And we rarely had a normal conversation while we waited, but rather would run around in tight circles, jump up and down, scream and shout, pull funny, grotesque faces, and generally act as children are supposed to, but usually don’t, in fact, only adults being silly.

And when the four square shots did eventually drop down into their little drying tray, we would snatch at them like monkeys, pushing and shoving each other, each hoping to be the first to whisk them away, inspecting them privately, in secret.  And whenever I was the first to reach them I looked immediately for your face, and then, only then, afterwards, would I look at myself, and then see myself sat next to you.  And you told me once that you did the same:  you did exactly the same.

And here I hold you in my hands.

Waiting.

 

And later on I became wary of cameras.

Once you’d left, I mean.

After you’d gone.

And whenever possible I avoided having my photograph taken.

I feared that I’d somehow disappear in the flash of the camera, my image absent as the film developed, as if I’d never really been there, or as if I’d never really existed in the first place, from the beginning.

And I withdrew into myself.

I became reclusive:  remote from the world.

And as if I’d never existed.

And I thought that.

Yes.

But whenever I went out it seemed as if there were always cameras.

In fact it seemed impossible to go out:  there were cameras literally everywhere.

Looking:  looking out.

And staring at you:  staring through you.

The blank gaze:  empty, meaningless.

And no one asked permission before they shot you.

Naturally.

And I really hated that.

But …

Don’t get me wrong.

This was more than ludditism.

I was a fucking primitive.

Do you understand?

And it was no wonder that I stayed in my room.

Or else went out either very early.

Or late, in the night.

Sheltered in the darkness.

They’d not catch me unawares.

The bastards.

Running off with my image, slipping away with my soul …

Or what’s left of it, at any rate.

I’m just not sure.

 

And I feel the same about mirrors.

I say ‘mirrors’ because I find it hard to think of a ‘mirror’ in the singular.

Mirrors, for me, are always plural:  they insist, by definition, on multiplying everything.

And yet …

Alone before the mirror.

I ask you:

Are you there?

Are you really there?

And at once you’re two.

At least.

The image appearing to ripple like circles upon water, tracks in the sand.

Like a labyrinth.

And will I be beautiful?

Again I ask you.

Will I be beautiful?

One day.

Perhaps …

 

And I look at my face.

It’s grotesque.

One eye is larger than the other, the mouth, too, lopsided, slipping away, my face out of all proportion.

And is it art?

Is it art?

I wonder.

 

And yes.

I’ve agonized endlessly in mirrors.

And in particular when I was young.

But not only then:  not by any means.

But also later.

Also now.

And I’m intensely, painfully self-conscious.

Fragile.

Insecure.

Self-loathing.

A death wish a mile wide.

You said these things.

And I think you’re right.

My height, my weight …

My thin, tall body.

‘If you stand sideways no one will see you’.

My mother used to say.

And you too, later on.

I half believed it.

And so quickly I picked up the trick, whenever I heard a negative phrase or expression, said in general terms, I mean, in conversation, for example, or read in a book, heard on the radio, on television, to claim it directly for myself.  When others then tried to judge me in these terms they were too late.  I’d judged myself already.  I’d beaten them to it.  So that whatever negative they came up with I felt sure that their negative judgement was not nearly as negative, not even half as negative, a fraction as negative, as my own pre-existing, preformed, judgement of myself.  And so I was always the first to damn myself:  this was my prerogative.  And in so doing, I reasoned, the others could make their own way to hell.  They could fuck right off!  And this sucked out the sting:  cut it out.  Or it seemed to at any rate.  A little of it, at least.  Perhaps.

But still I hated being in company.

And I always had to get away:  the sooner the better.

Although fortunately I found alternatives.

And whenever I could, I adopted them.

I became another.

Masks, roles, projections onto bodies:  other lives and personalities.

I tried them all.

Becoming like this, like that …

More confident, for example, more assertive.

And at times even bold.

Or reckless.

But this was all artifice.

And it wasn’t really my nature.

Not at all.

By nature I kept myself to myself.

And I still do.

Alone.

Always alone.

As you know.

 

And I grew to think of myself as a weed.

And I often described myself as such.

I was an unwanted growth.

And it was only a matter of time before I’d be dug up and chucked away.

Or so I thought.

‘Compost as destiny.’

If you like.

But listen …

In a breeze I sway from side to side.

I wave with the air.

And this is what you do when you’re tall and thin.

You’re vulnerable.

One strong gust and you’re gone.

Do you see?

So you’ve really got to move.

And the important thing is just to keep on moving, to keep on going …

And you’ve got to do that all the time.

That’s all.

Going:  going on …

 

And for some I know that it’s the eyes, the face, that sheds some little light upon the life.

My eyes, my face.

But my features were, and remain, thin, hollowed.

The lines around my face awkward, unruly, cut clumsily into the skin.

And they seemed to create shadow.

Tiny pockets of darkness.

Pocks, pockets …

Chiaroscuro.

A play of light and darkness.

And in the mirror seeming more dark than light:  more darkness than light.

The patches of milky white skin, for example, pale, bloodless, were as if just left there, blank, to form a contrast to these shadows.

And it’s the light that makes the dark still darker.

 

And I ask you:

Will I see you in the mirror, my love, at last?

I wonder.

And I look.

I look:  you look.

And at once you’re two.

Four.

And we often stood naked before a mirror.

Do you remember?

Side by side.

You and I.

And in fact we do so still now:  in one of these photographs, at least.

Let me see …

But the shot has developed badly and we appear as two strange amorphous shapes, pale and blurred.

And you’re holding the camera to your eye as we try to see each other through the layers of glass.

And we looked:  we looked at ourselves.

And wondered at the mystery of our nearness.

Ourselves together.

Like two lives running parallel.

But what did it mean:  what did it all mean?

I’ve no idea …

But we’d taken a shower.

And the room was damp, full of steam.

Clouds in the eye:  a mist, a fog.

I remember.

And I squinted my eyes and pretended that I couldn’t see you, groping in the dark, my hands held out, brushing lightly across the surface of your skin, touching you.

Perhaps I grinned from ear to ear.

Who knows?

And you giggle:  laughing as I tickle you.

‘You’re wicked!  You’re absolutely wicked!’

You say.

But you’d accepted me, at least, and for the moment I existed.

And this was a beginning.

But …

‘No I’m not.’

I say, laughing myself now, no end to it.

‘Believe me.

I’m not wicked.

I’m light:  I’m pure fucking light!’

 

But someone is dying:  someone is dying as I speak.

And in the course of their dying, I ask you:

Will my whole life pass slowly before my eyes?

After all:  that’s what they say.

And I wonder.

But my thoughts are still wandering:  fragmented, formless.

Listen …

 

A mirror, propped up erect against the wall, was like a magical door, a portal, opening mysteriously into the self.

But I didn’t want to look:  I didn’t want to enter.

It was earlier or later …

Going on.

But then I lost my image.

So that it was like an empty reflection, my image.

The absent watcher.

And like a ghost in the mirror …

Unseen, invisible.

Or else a reflection of nothing.

And I wanted to smash my fists straight into it.

To fracture it into a thousand tiny pieces and myself a thousand cuts…

I wanted blood.

Do you see?

Blood and blood and blood.

And then at last to break through to the surface …

To feel the pain.

And scream.

Do you remember?

 

Yes.

And sometimes I wish that we’d met both earlier and later than in fact we did.

Later would perhaps have been best.

So that now we live together, happy and contented, settled, getting old, our children almost the age that we were, then, when we first fell in love.

But how quickly time passes when you think about it.

You shouldn’t, I suppose.

At least …

That’s what you always said.

Don’t look back!

Don’t look back!

Keep close.

That’s all.

And touch me.

My love.

So that then we’ll walk together.

Hand in hand …

 

And I open my eyes:  I look.

 

And yes.

Yes:  I see you.

You were my first and only love.

Yes:  yes, of course I see you.

Again and again.

‘Soon!’

‘Soon!’

 

And I open my eyes.

And this is still my room.

I can still say that, at least.

But I’m not really here.

It’s clear.

I don’t belong here:  I no longer belong in this room.

And it’s as if it doesn’t want me anymore.

As if it’s finished:  over.

And shunned, I feel a stranger here:  I’m a stranger here now.

And without much success I search for something that I’d recognize.

A desperate longing:  a blank, empty space.

And of course I find nothing:  I see nothing.

And my eyes are only water as I look.

And the walls of the room seem themselves to turn to liquid:  floating away …

But still:  these are the songs of my room.

And I sing them now:  still now.

Going on …

Do you remember?

 

Yes.

Yes:  I remember.

And I remember the way that your hand reached out for me.

The way that you reach for me now …

The way that you touch me and the way that you hold me tight as if you’ll never let me go …

Laughing, shrieking, screaming …

Don’t let go!  Don’t let go!

And the way that you keep on holding me, touching me:  my legs, my wrists, my arms, my hands, my face …

And laughing and running and dancing!

We are together – you and I.

Your hand in mine.

‘Jump!’

You say.

‘Jump!’

And at last …

We’re together.

 

But …

You said to me then that you wished to cry.

And I wonder.

Have you done so by now?

You must.

You see …

And as you cry it will all begin to make sense.

You’ll see this.

And again and again our happiness, together …

You’ll see it all very clearly, I’m sure.

And don’t worry.

After all:  there’s perhaps still time.

And perhaps in the future it will happen like this …

We’ll find a way.

Our hands reaching out, touching …

We’ll stroll together, side by side.

And I’ll not look back.

I’ll not look back this time.

And you’ll help me, I know.

You won’t ask me to look.

And then we’ll pass through our tears, beyond them, never stopping …

Until at last we’ll escape.

And then we’ll be free.

We’ll be free again.

Can you imagine?

Like a dream.

And as brief, as fleeting.

Like passing beneath a waterfall.

A waterfall opening out, like gates, to a dream of childhood innocence:  a paradise.

And we can see and we can hear and we can feel … everything!

Or so it seems.

I say:  I have a voice!

I can sing!

And I am floating free …

I am infinite space.

I am infinite!

My love …

In memory.

And both of us, dizzy with delight, seeming transparent in a blur of movement.

Spinning around and around.

Until I feel so wild.

And like the air.

The wind.

And my eyes are fully open but I’ve lost the sky …

And all I can see are your eyes.

Your lovely, liquid eyes.

Flowing around and around like circle upon circle rippling upon the surface of two watery pools, so deep and so solemn, so beautiful.

And I’m utterly lost in them – your eyes – as if lost in their promise of happiness.

And as if my eyes are about to overflow with their seeing and then finally to see no more:  my heart about to burst and die.

 

But listen.

For the moment, at least, my pulse still speaks of flesh and blood, of life lingering on, but my thoughts are bloody.

Going:  going on.

 

‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me:  sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me … ‘

 

And someone is dying as I speak.

I hear the sound of his breathing.

And I hear the sound of his slowing heart:  beating, still beating.

It’s like a low, aching pulse, drumming in my ears:  rhythmic, hypnotic, going on, the blood.

And I clench my fists:  clench and then release them, open and then close them.

And a heart must be about this size, I imagine, as I clench my fists closed, as tightly closed as I can make them.  The size of a good round stone.

Thumping.

Thumping.

Thumping.

Thumping.

And I think of a stone:  bleeding …

Cut!

Cut!

The words.

The words.

Going on and on:  bleeding, still bleeding …

And once more I hear the words:  once more I hear the sound of the words, once more the sound, these last, dying words.  And again I hear them:  softly, so softly, like echoes, like the whispering of echoes …

Or a whispering in the blood, a voice, listen …

 

And I walk.

I can feel myself walking.

And yes:  yes of course I remember.

And, as if to make sure, I tell myself stories from my memories, stories as I walk.

I say:

I am, after all, a storyteller …

As if telling myself a story, repeating it again and again as if to thereby gain confidence, to convince myself of its truth.

And I am a singer of songs.

And I must look and I must see and I must love:  for these are the skills of the storyteller, of the weaver of the winds – these are the skills of the singer of songs!

But in truth I’m not sure:  I’m not sure of anything any more.

And I think only of the absence of your eyes:  darkening blind.

And then I feel like such a failure.

Going on:  looking back …

 

But old habits die hard.

And even now I think of stories:  stories I’d like still to tell.  Old or new, good or bad, no matter.  I do it both for practise and for company – half-speaking, half-singing.

Do you hear?  Do you hear?

But I am weak now:  weakening all the time.  And the stories that I recall I can recall only in fragments.  Only, at best, in fragments.  And how to choose and select:  how to order them?

And in any case I’ve still the impression, unsettling, that the most important of these stories remain unspoken, untold, perhaps misplaced – or simply forgotten – in memory.  So that what is said seems only a signpost to the unsaid, the silence:  highlighting the absence of what has disappeared or been lost or forgotten.

To say the silence:  to look upon the lost …

And the stories seem blurred and confused.

And I feel as if my life is being eroded away:  eroded away in this strange play of remembering and forgetting, this play of voices, the words like echoes, whisperings in time.

And I’ve little love leftover.

Although still I try:  still I try to keep on going.

Going:  going on …

To love to sing a little.

To sing to me to you:  in memory.

But soft songs now – soft songs to sing a little – soft songs to love to sing – sing softly to me now.  Ever so softly.  And sing softly:  softly now.  In memory.  My love.

And still I’m remembering:  from time to time.

And you:  do you remember?

Do you remember still?
Yes.

Yes:  I do remember.

Yes of course I still remember.

And I ask you:

How could I ever forget?

And it was like a hint of a dream:  a dream of walking on.

Step by step:  going, going on.

But I had no choice:  don’t you see?

Blind:  I had no choice.

And I simply couldn’t turn away:  I had to follow you.

And so I kept on walking.

I had no choice.

A corridor, long and narrow, the air heavy, dense.

And I look forward into nothing as I walk:  the darkness ahead, black and empty like a void, an abyss.

No thing:  no one:  no where.

And it’s hell.

Going:  going on.

But …

Do you still remember?

And do you remember even now?

 

Yes.

Yes:  I remember.

I remember a dream of walking on.

And with this dream I travel far:  it takes me to a land far off, remote, unknown, a land at the limits, the furthest limits, perhaps, of imagination and memory.

And I keep on walking:  on and on.

Step by step:  step by lonely step.

I have no choice.

 

And it’s like a dream.

Looking around …

A blurry landscape that hovers uneasily between the familiar and the foreign, between remembering and forgetting.

I am nervous, I suppose.

And I feel aware of everything:  as if I am everything.

It’s like an illness.

To experience too acutely …

A heightened sensibility:  an empathy stretched dangerously far.

A kind of fever living.

I feel it.

 

But still I keep on going.

And I will not give up:  I cannot.

I have no choice.

So I walk and walk and walk.

Going:  going on.

 

And I’m thinking, as I walk, in terms of distances which are infinite.

As if my wandering will go on forever.

Although at the same time I’m convinced that I’m nearly there:  the end is in sight.

A paradox.

And so of course I carry on:  for the moment, at least.

 

Although suddenly the darkness lifts, blinking unexpectedly into light.

And I look around.

I see your eyes.

Open.

Close.

Looking back …

 

And I’m surrounded once again by a scene of quite staggering beauty.  It’s a perfect vision of lakes and mountains.  A landscape in the purest and most sublime sense of the word:  I look at it as I would a painting, absorbed, spellbound, transported.  High, snow-topped mountains tower up towards the sky:  and icy mountain water trickles down from their tops in streams.  And looking lower, a lower altitude than that of the tops of the mountains and the mountain lakes, I look upon a gentler scene of rolling hills, wrapped warmly in a blanket of ancient forest, and rivers sourced in the heavens and costumed accordingly in rich meadows and pastureland.  And the colours are magnificent:  as if from an artist’s palette upon which every conceivable shade of blue and green and brown and yellow and red has been ground and tested, mixed and tried, created and applied.

And I gaze:  transfixed.

Do you remember?

 

Yes:  I remember.

But …

Looking around, the scene growing familiar, I begin to observe it more closely, to notice more of its detail.

I look up.

And the sky, I think, seems sketchy:  oddly sketchy as if it’s been added as an afterthought, painted in swiftly in watercolour with broad, rapid strokes that have left behind patches of untouched white like blotches of nothing, blank and staring, sore on the eyes.  And of course this begins to undermine the impact of the picture as a whole, giving it the impression, upon reflection, of a piece unfinished, a work abandoned before completion.

And I begin to feel anxious, unnerved.

 

But I keep on going:  I keep on walking.

And I’ve finally found a path:  small and narrow, twisting and turning as if unsure of its direction, I follow it.  Although the weather has changed rapidly while I’ve been walking and the wind is picking up and the sky growing black:  the scene resembles an earthly paradise no longer.  And I wonder about turning around and heading back.  Except that I can’t, I know.  I have to keep on going:  I have no choice.

I walk.

Although soon the narrow path seems entirely to lose its way, shrinking narrower and narrower and in places breaking up, until eventually it’s no more than a muddy winding track the traces of which then disappear completely.

And the walking has become hard, difficult:  it’s all uphill and I struggle for my breath.

By chance I raise my head and look up across a valley, deepening to my left.

And only then do I realize.

The sky is turning black not only from the sudden changes in the weather but also from all the smoke hanging heavy in the air.

My eyes begin to sting.

And I look.

Dense funnels of smoke rise up from the trees:  already a burning chaos, they are robed in flames, red tongues licking madly at the sky.  The forest is on fire and the flames spreading quickly.

And I’m anxious:  scared.

But even now I walk.

And listen.

I’ll not give in to panic.

Not yet.

And you?

Going:  going on.

 

So yes:  of course I remember the dream.

Perhaps not perfectly:  but I do remember it.

And in my dream I keep on walking.

Walking on and on.

I have no choice.

Do you see?

Going on …

 

And the scene that surrounds me, as I walk, is never settled:  it changes constantly.

So that soon the flaming forest is but a distant memory.

And what is real is only movement:  the changes in the seasons, the ages, in time.

And for a while I feel it’s autumn.

It’s cooler and the wind strips the trees.

Their leaves, one by one, are plucked:  the exposed earth swollen with rain.

But this is not an autumn that exists in time, I realize.

This is an autumn of the mind.

And my thoughts blow restlessly about me.

Nothing is fixed:  nothing is settled.

And everything is changing …

It’s like a dream:  a dream of long ago.

Do you remember?

 

Yes:  I remember.

And I keep on walking:  walking on and on.

A corridor of trees.

I walk through a corridor of trees.

And the canopy overhead blocks out the sky and the trunks form impenetrable walls on either side of me.  And I feel like a prisoner, hemmed in by these trees, figures stern and silent like sentries on duty, growing darker and darker, gloomier and gloomier, and seeming ever more harsh and hostile, I’ll not escape them.

Until the light is at last obliterated:  the sun blocked out completely.

Blind:  this darkness.

And I’m lost:  I know.

Although I keep on walking.

Walking on and on.

Step by step:  step by lonely step.

I have no choice.

Going:  going on.

Do you remember?

 

Yes:  I remember.

A dream of walking on.

But I’m growing weak:  I’m tired, exhausted.

And I want it to end:  I want it all to end.

I am nervous, I suppose.

Tired and on edge.

And I feel like broken glass:  the sound of my shattering is deafening.

But still I hear a voice.

Yes:  I’m sure of it.

I hear it.

 

A voice.

Far off, at first:  far away.

So soft, so delicate.

And I hear it as a murmur in my mind, thinking:  this is the wind now gently singing, like a soft, tired whispering, trembling in the air, or a voice at the back of the head, a dying echo which I hear only faintly, a memory.

And sing it softly to me now:  sing softly.

This song:  this singing.

A voice.

I hear it.

But …

 

It changes.

The sound changes as I listen.

And I change with it.

So that I begin to think that this is not a voice I hear:  it is not a voice at all, not really.

It’s a stream:  it’s the sound of a stream.

A gently flowing stream:  flowing gently towards me.

And I am nervous, I suppose.

I feel confused.

A voice, a stream.

A flowing of water.

Nearer:  nearer.

And I ask you:

Is this then my voice?

My voice:  running, running away …

It’s like a distant stream:  a soft streaming voice from far away, calling out upon the wind, this sound, like song, like singing on the wind, singing to the wind, singing the songs of the wind …

So that everything is changing:  everything is movement.

Do you remember?
Yes:  I remember.

And still the sound goes on:  going on and on.

Growing louder:  more intense.

And now I hear it.

A voice:  always again a voice.

Or rather voices:  there are many.

And I hear them, I hear the sound of voices, so many different voices, all mingled together and sounding one upon another, so that it makes me think of bells, pealing, ringing out, ringing forth, the sounding of bells, the hours.

Tin-tin  – tin –  tin-tin.

Like a stream of voices.

A thousand different voices.

Louder:  louder.

Louder:  louder still.

Until at last it’s like a storm.

A storm inside my head.

My head cut open, splitting …

A whirlwind:  a tempest.

Like a thousand different voices.

An ocean of sound.

And I’m going mad:  I know it.

I’m going mad!

Do you hear?

 

But listen …

At first I hear laughter.

A scream and a shout.

And then a cry, the sound of crying, crying out, wailing, sobbing, like the sound of falling tears …

And I listen.

I hear it all.

And the sound of voices, all these voices:  the sound of so many different voices, all mixed up together and confused, merging each with all the others as if melting altogether, melting, dissolving, flowing, flowing on and on …

A stream of voices:  a roaring stream of voices.

Until finally it’s like one vast, great voice:  one vast, great voice whose sound is a sort of celestial music, like a song, a song of all that is, the world, flowing on, flowing on and on, flowing on and on and on …

And changing:  always changing.

So that everything is changing:  everything is movement.

A voice.

Imagine.

 

But I am nervous, I suppose.

Nervous and confused.

And my ears are ringing:  my mind maddened.

It’s like a vast, great voice …

But still I keep on walking.

And you must:  you must go on …

A voice:  I hear a voice.

Going on and on …

And yes.

Yes I know.

I have no choice.

Do you see?

 

But then for a moment it’s you:  and for a moment it’s the sound of your voice that at last I hear.

Listen.

Waiting.

Waiting.

And how beautiful it sounds, your voice:  extraordinary, exquisite.

And I listen, I hear you:  I know that you are there.

And it’s like I’ve been living with a ghost:  speaking to a spirit, talking with the unknown.  Both presence and absence.  Going:  going on.  And all this time …

I listen:  I hear you.

Come!

You say.

Come!

And follow:  I shall follow.

Step by step:  step by lonely step.

Just walking on and on.

And follow:  come follow.

I shall always follow you.

And I am feverish, I know:  delirious, burning up.  And I can feel myself sweating:  night sweats dream drowning.  And I’m cold and wet and shivering as if I’m up to my knees in water, as if I’ll be submerged, as if I’ll drown in a dream:  a dream of the deep sleep sea.

But then again the voices:  so many voices in my head.

Crying:  come, come follow!

And of course I have no choice.

Do you hear?

And so I walk:  I keep on walking.

Although I begin to feel weak, too weak to go on, too weak to go on much further.  And I’m weakening, weakening all the time, my legs shaking, trembling, my heart as if beating out of time.  And I’m unsteady:  unsteady on my feet.  But I have to go on:  I have to go on.  I know.

And yet these voices, the terrible noise of these voices:  it’s all too much, don’t you see?

And I feel as if I’m going to topple over at any moment and then that at last I’ll be swept away:  swept away in this torrent of voice, overtaken and consumed, lost in it, drowned in it.

The panic in the blood.

And this stream of voices draws nearer:  nearer, nearer still.

And soon it will be on top of me, scooping me up in its arms, racing past, overwhelming, flowing on.  And I shall be engulfed, swallowed up, I know:  these voices …

A deluge of sound.

And at last I turn:  I look.

Looking:  looking back …

Don’t look!

Don’t look!

And yet I hear you:  your voice.

That’s what you said.

Do you remember?

 

Don’t look back!

Don’t look back!

Although I do look:  I do look back.

And it’s then that I think:  I’m seeing things, I’m hearing things.

When in truth I see nothing, hear nothing.

As if I’m walking in the depths of silent space.

Looking back:  the stars in my mind …

Open.

Closed.

It’s how I see.

 

And in my mind’s eye I see it coming:  at last I see the end.

And at first it arrived in a creeping mist of silence.

But now it’s impatient:  it will not wait.

Menacing:  malicious.

Look, looking …

Don’t look back!

Don’t look back!

And it’s a great rush of water surging up behind me, flowing fast.

And the water’s waves, wild and foaming, seem, as I look, to snarl and snap, gnawing and gnashing, angry, ferocious.

And random objects, flotsam and jetsam as if scattered in the sea, float around upon the surface of my sight:  trees, bits of old rubbish, cars, furniture, scaffolding, just about anything you can imagine.

And I can also pick out the occasional shape of an animal:  cats, dogs, sheep, goats, cows.

And bodies, human bodies:  bloated corpses, if you like, bloated corpses bobbing up and down with the movement of the currents like bathers enjoying a lazy evening swim.  But not all of them.  Some of them look to be waving or pleading, as if they’re still alive, tossed around in the turbulence of the water, flushed out, and drowning.

But in fact they are all of them dead:  they are all of them dead already.

Do you see?

And I’m alone.

Alone with the dead:  my memories.

But …

Don’t look back!

Don’t look back!

And I turn to flee.

 

But I’m weak:  I’m weakening all the time.

And I try to run but I can’t:  I just don’t have the strength.

And I feel as if everything is slowing down, slowing almost to nothing, in fact, a heart barely beating, that’s all, and a life stretched now to its thinnest extent, thinking:  I want to die, I want to die.

And this in itself is a madness:  a madness from which I cannot escape, I know.

And still I keep on going.

Going:  going on.

And my chest aches:  a terrible, aching pain.

And my fitful heart pounds hard as if to burst.

But slowly, I say:  beating slowly, my heart.

And my body is burning up …

A voice.

I hear a voice, still speaking.

Listen:  try to listen.

And we are all of us searching for oblivion.

We are all of us searching …

 

And time flows through me but I feel so thin now that it’s as if I’m time myself:  looking back …

And for a moment, in imagination, I see myself:  my head thrown back and my mouth wide open.  It’s frozen like a single shot, a single frame:  frozen for all time.  As if time has stopped:  life held on pause.

But I think:

No.

No:  it’s not time that is slowing down.

It’s not time:  time continues, keeps going, moves on and then passes, passing silently away.

It’s me.

I decrease:  I diminish.

I shrink away.

And I am no one, no where, no more:  lost, faceless, forgotten.

Memory:  memory.

Be gentle, my memory.

As if I’m slowing:  slowing down.

Do you remember?

 

Yes.

Yes:  I remember.

And in fact I drink deeply from my memory:  too deeply, perhaps.

Wave upon wave.

And the waters roar behind me:  the waves are coming.

And I want to escape, to flee.

I want so desperately for it to end.

To look and be lost:  to go on be gone …

And I’m drowning:  drowning in words, in memories.

Don’t you see?

Or understand?

 

But no, not yet:  this nightmare’s not yet over.

And instead it closes in.

It closes in and then it continues to close in:  closing in on me like an incoming tide, and I cannot escape it, I know, I’ll not escape it, not ever, never, closing in, closing in all around me, like an incoming tide, coming closer, closer in …

A liquid nightmare.

So that whichever way I turn it makes no difference:  I turn towards water, water lapping at my toes, my ankles, my knees, taking hold, dragging me down, drowning.

And going:  going on.

But I can’t now, I can’t go on:  it makes no difference.

The sea, the sea …

And I look, looking:  looking lost …

But I can see only the sea:  this vast teary sea closing in on every side.

And a voice.

I hear it.

It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter.

Looking:  looking back.

And for a moment I’m calm:  calming, becoming still, my sight, looking out across the sea, looking out, listening.

And the sea itself seems then to cease its restless stirring, to quieten and become calm.  And it’s surface is like a light green sheet, a pale jade green, but glossy like bright silk, gently, gently, undulating gently, almost imperceptibly, in time, as if in time with the beating of my heart, faint, so faint, the rhythms of the deep.  And this I’ve never before seen, I’m sure:  the sea so quiet, a strange, eerie calm, deathly silent, so still, as if mirroring my moods.  And it looks now like a mirror, a great sheet of glass, blue, silvery blue, it’s true:  a mirror and its reflection, like the sea and the sky, as if one the perfect image of the other, like twins turning face to face.  And indeed it seems somehow magical, this sea:  like the seas in which I swam during my dreams of childhood.

And do you remember?

Do you really remember?

Waiting.

Waiting.

Yes.

I remember.

Go on …

 

And at last I can look out across the sea.

Imagine.

I look and I look.

Your eyes …

Your face.

But rather …

No:  this is my face, or so at least I think at first.

My face forming upon the surface of the sea as in a mirror.

And I see my eyes:  lone eyes.

Looking:  always looking …

Don’t look back!

Don’t look back!

A trick of light, perhaps:  exhaustion.

Who knows?

The blood …

 

But look:  listen …

A pair of eyes:  a single pair of eyes.

And I’m losing my face, looking back, looking lost …

Slowly.

Slowly.

And soon I’ll disappear, I know.

Going:  going on.

 

And a pair of eyes, a single pair of eyes, eyes floating out upon the surface of the sea …

And this interminable floating:  like a dream.

My eyes, floating out …

I make no sense, I know.

And hopeless, it begins to rain.

The sound of rain upon the water, falling like tears.

And my eyes are full of tears, it seems, full of tears at last:  watery, watery tears, drowning in water, a sea of tears, a sea of watery, watery tears, floating out, floating away …

And listen:

I’m the tearful king of a tiny, rainy country.

A king of sorts – but powerless.

Silent and forgotten, I’m dumb:  inert, meaningless, my wet eyes staring, flowing, washed away, washed away, like a figure of wet clay.

And I can feel myself slipping:  my self is slipping.

But still I look:  I see.

Looking:  always looking.

Looking back …

 

And your eyes.

Your eyes, my love.

I look again and at last I see your eyes.

Your eyes:  your lovely liquid eyes.

And your eyes floating, floating perfectly formed:  perfectly formed in my looking, looking back …

And your eyes, at the same time, as if drowning in their depths …

First your pupils, dark, intense, a brushstroke of black, waiting, wanting, then circling out, growing large, spiralling larger, and then longing, still longing, like a shoreless radiance.

So that I see them:  your eyes.

Eyes of all colours and none.

Eyes of grey, silver and white, eyes of brown and black, of green and blue.

Like liquid gold in the light of the sun …

Those eyes, those watery, watery eyes.

And I see them:  your eyes.

Like a dream:  liquid like a dream.

The sea, the sky.

 

But I’m dizzy, confused.

And I’m weak, weakening:  weakening all the time.

My eyes.

Your eyes.

Blurred, fading …

Going:  going on.

Going gone.

 

And of course I’m alone.

Always alone:  myself alone.

And my mind is losing its edge.

My mind is losing its edge, I know:  its walls are crumbling.  And the once strong surfaces of my body appear to weaken, as if to melt, to thaw, slipping away, lost, in a whirlpool of swirling fluid.  And it’s darkening, blackening out, as if I’m wading now in shadows, shadows of mind and memory, the formless, darkening waters.

And my heart still beats but only just:  a rippling, murmuring heart, I can barely hear it now.

Listening …

Wave upon wave.

And the water seems red in my eyes:  a dark, crimson red, like blood, stained with blood as it trickles down the creases and crevices, into the fissures and hollows, along the lines and runnels of my body, this sea my blood …

And I feel now like an island, floating alone upon this blood red sea.

Come!

Come follow!

I hear the voice …

And then I walk:  I walk into the sea …

And at once my breath is drowning:  I’ve lost my tongue, my tongue of land, my voice, my song.

And the crashing waves are deafening me:  I’ll not be heard.

But the voice, my voice, the sound of my voice:  still listen …

And I am fading, fluid:  lost, like a dream.

 

But I tell you:

Many waters cannot quench love.

And neither can the floods ever drown it.

 

And I ask you:  I ask you again.

Do you remember, my love?

Do you really remember?

Don’t look!

You said.

Don’t look!

Don’t look!

But nothing:  only silence.

 

And for a long while I felt like such a thing would never be permitted:  the passing of the years.

And it was like a dream:  completion …

Do you remember?

 

Yes.

But then I think to myself:

How strange that these will be our memories:  these snatches of thought, these words that weigh so heavily.

And my remembrance is a burden:  I’ve had enough.

As if it’s time now.

The end.

Do you see?

 

And yet the end must be right:  the end must be perfect.

In the end is everything.

Yes:  I know.

I’ve heard it said.

But I ask you:  how shall I reach it?

And that I do not know.

I am not told.

So gently, memory.

Be patient.

Go on:  going on …

Step by step.

Step by lonely step.

And it’s like a journey.

The journeys of my love …

Going on and on.

Far:  far away.

Imagine.

 

And at last I lie still:  I lie here still, on the floor, as I do most mornings.

And the sky looks almost white:  blank like an empty page.

And I’ve heard it said so often.

Why don’t you write a book?

Write a book, at least.

As if it’s something so easy.

To claim back some meaning from all this mess …

You said so yourself.

And why don’t you finish it?

Why can’t you reach the end?

Or just let me read it?

Now …

Or later.

Do you remember?

But …

My writing seemed at times so slow and so heavy.  It was like getting blood from a stone:  a stone at the gates of hell.  And I could have dedicated years to the banging of my head against walls.  I’m sure of it.  It would have been a relief, for one thing.  And perhaps easier than writing:  this deadly contamination of pen and ink, the fingers then twitching nervously, later on, in the darkness of the night, a keyboard, the blank screen drawing you in, inviting you to sleep, but your eyes still wide open, blown up and boggling, maddened by radiation and fatigue.

But still.

I’ve kept going.

And for so many years now I’ve somehow kept on going.

Going:  going on …

Like an obsession.

But always very slowly:  very slowly and almost mechanically, in fact, adding word to word, linking phrase with phrase, sentence with sentence.

I’ve kept on writing.

Like a figure from a dream.

Writing.

Writing.

And my words were like tiny particles of matter, so many grains of sand piled high in a man’s hand.  And I sifted through them as if peering through the icy blue waters of a river, digging it up, handful by handful, shovel by shovel, checking each grain slowly and carefully, looking for myself, sieving them for gold.

And when I first began to write I fluctuated madly between joy and despair.

But still:  it seemed to me then, at that time, that I might reach something solid and lasting.

Words, after all, are so much more constant and reliable than people.

And then they feel real, substantial, in a way that people rarely do.

They were my hope.

But now I’ve changed:  I’ve grown so tired.

And the words dried up.

And it’s as if my eyes themselves have become silted up with time and memory.  And a lethargy lingers around me like a fog.  But it’s a sickening business.  And I loathe it like my life:  like life itself.

I’ve lost my faith.

I suppose.

My faith.

My confidence.

So that even my words seem out of place.

As if they’re not really mine.

Arriving from here and there.

Always elsewhere.

Mixed up:  muddled.

And these voices are like echoes.

And the words as if nothing at all.

As if it’s all a mistake:  a terrible mistake.

Going on …

And you were my language.

You.

My love.

My language.

You gave me the strength to work.

And the strength to go on:  the courage.

You were my hope.

Except that now you’ve gone:  you’ve gone for good.

And I’m left here all alone.

Silent.

Still.

And yet it’s true:  it’s true that there were times when almost everyone seemed to be writing – a little book, you could say, for every one of us on the planet.  Mostly they were crass, stupid, rather meaningless affairs:  so insipid as to be almost instantly forgotten, pointless, like our lives.  And lacking significance or purpose, long separated, divorced from its meaning, our world seemed like a world without memory.  And endlessly distracted, as we were, as we are, in the play of appearances:  this in itself is forgotten.

So we’re lost.

We’re all of us lost.

And I should know.

After all …

It’s my language itself that fails me:  it’s my words that are wrong.

These words, my memory …

 

But hush.

Silence …

Gently, my memory:  be patient.

 

And I rather wish that my eyes would with themselves shut up my thoughts.

But they open to be closed.

Open.

Closed.

 

And so I try to cover them:  I try to cover up my eyes.

I try to cover up my eyes and to stop myself from seeing.

But don’t you see:  it’s all in the mind.

It’s like my mother said.

It’s all in the mind.

It’s all in the mind.

How deep.

Don’t worry.

 

But it’s true.

I can imagine it.

And I can see it all stretched out before me.

Straining towards silence …

As if the silence now surrounds me.

And it’s true that the silence has grown loud, deafening, in these past few years.

I see no one.

And hardly speak.

And my words, when I do speak, sound empty.

As if I’ve nothing to say.

Nothing to write.

Nothing.

And if only I could enter fully into the silence.

Or vanish utterly in language.

And I’d like that:  I know.

I listen.

 

And I listen quietly to the sound of my breathing.

But am I the only one who hears it?

I wonder.

And I watch.

I watch.

I watch the world through ghostly eyes.

Wandering in my absence …

A dancer dancing alone in a darkness no one sees …

And this silence speaks only of despair, I know.

And it grips me like a vice.

But to drag myself away seems impossible:  quite impossible.

And so it’s as if I’ve found my home in this unhappiness.

It’s as if I’ve found my true home in all this terrible unhappiness.

So that my ending is despair:  despair, as from the beginning, my relentless, inevitable undoing.

My primary loyalty.

But try to understand …

Doctors depress me.

I’ll not call a doctor.

No.

Not ever.

Imagine.

 

But no man is an island.

Do you remember?

That’s what you said.

No man is an island.

No man is an island.

And you can’t survive alone.

Or so it seems.

Not now.

Not ever.

 

But is that really why you left:  is that really why you disappeared?

I still don’t know.

This deep despair …

And it floats in the air like ashes:  settles like dust.

And it seems to cling to everything that it touches:  blacking things out.

But what did you want to see?

Did you want proof?

Proof of my despair?

Look here …

The cuts:  the blood.

And I ask you:

Why did you leave, my love?

You could have stayed.

You could have stayed.

My love.

If you’d wanted.

 

And I remember.

I remember these words as if I wrote them only yesterday, as if I read them from the page, pursuing them with my eyes, my fingers twitching.

And, muttering to myself, my lifeless tongue a piteous murmur and the words bubbling up by themselves, surfacing of their own accord from somewhere deep within me, I know that someone, somewhere, is dying:  someone, somewhere, is dying as I speak.

And I, too, am breaking up.

And my breath is labouring upon my lips …

And someone, somewhere, is dying as I speak.

And the blood is flowing everywhere …

But listen …

 

Memory does not flick swiftly through the pages of the past.

But slowly:  so slowly.

And yet still I can feel it:  I can feel that my time is running out.

And running:  always running.

I can feel it.

 

And then the sound of a closing door:  slamming shut.

And footsteps.

Footsteps.

Going on and on.

And I ask you:  is it not possible to bridge the distance between now and then?

Could I not begin again, for example:  begin again from the beginning?

I wonder.

 

But still a voice:  the sound of a voice.

The sound of a voice like whisperings in time:  a book of echoes.

Listen …

 

And how fragile is memory.

Or rather brittle.

Like glass.

And once shattered it rests in shards, in splinters.

Cutting:  cutting.

Cutting into the mind.

 

And does memory remain, memory rest?

Does it remain alive?

For example:

Will these memories last forever?

Lingering, longing memory.

Or will they be forgotten?

Not forgotten, but lost …

I ask you.

 

And it’s like a dream.

Perhaps.

All this time, all this memory …

It’s like a dream to me now.

Both distant and all that I’ve left.

And I’m left alone with my dream.

Except that a dream is of interest only to the dreamer:  this, at least, is clear.

It’s of no interest to others:  a purely private obsession.

Don’t you agree?

But still …

You:  dear you.

I ask you.

And have you no dreams then of your own?

Forgotten, lost …

I wonder.

And if your answer is no you surprise me.

And what else can I say:  what else can I say to you now?

So stop:  stop now.

Yes.

That’s what I’ll say.

Stop now.

Stop now.

Don’t go on:  going on …

 

Although you’re right:  you’re right, in any case.

It doesn’t amount to much, in the end:  a life.

A few thousand words.

Drifting in the air …

 

And imagine.

My eyes are closed.

And I place a shell to my ear.

I listen.

And I ask you:

Can you hear the sound of the sea?

Or taste the tears, salty, on my tongue?

And the blood:  the blood …

My blood flows like a river:  my blood is a river.

But blood is not water:  the water turned to blood.

Crimson red, gleaming in the darkness like a river, a river of dark light.

And it’s a river of dark light flowing out to the sea.

Singing out in search of a response, I suppose, asking:

But why am I bleeding?

Why am I bleeding?

Cut:  cutting …

The blood.

Once more the blood.

 

And then I ask you:

Does no one even notice that you’ve gone?

And you:  at least …

Do you not notice?

As if now you really are forgotten to the past:  lost in time.

Looking:  looking lost.

And I ask you:

Does really no one now remember:  really no one?

A memory.

That’s all.

A memory.

 

And I throw a stone into the well of my memory:  I listen for a sound.

And now I’m listening.

I’m listening still.

 

And yes.

Yes:  I remember.

I remember everything, it seems.

A blessing, a curse.

I remember.

 

And of course I remember you.

And above all your eyes:  your eyes above all.

And I remember your eyes that day:  your lovely liquid eyes.

Do you remember?

Blazing out, bright with love.

And like the sun in the morning.

And you seemed so confident and welcoming, light shining everywhere, so that with you it felt like being in the presence of a kind of grace, a kind of grace in which to live, and to live for a while, at least.

And the dawn had seemed a miracle.

And life like a never ending morning.

And you.

There you were.

Growing brighter and brighter.

Alive.

The sun.

Like a figure from a dream.

Do you remember?

 

And it was almost as if you yourself were my dream:  the dream that made me wish for sleep.

And you must understand …

You must really try to understand.

I wanted always to believe in the possibility of love.

Always.

Do you hear?

But not just in its possibility:  no, not just in that.

I wanted also to believe in its reality:  I wanted above all to believe in the reality of love.

And I wanted love to be true.

The dream to be real.

And this is why I began.

I guess.

I think so:  yes.

And now going:  going on …

 

So that I walked towards you.

I walked towards your eyes, your voice …

I would follow.

 

Come!

You said.

Come and I shall follow.

I shall follow you.

I shall always follow you.

Travelling back and forth, in time, in memory.

In heaven:  in hell.

I’ll match you step by step.

Step by lonely step.

Just going on and on:  go on …

And follow:  come follow …

 

But the sands of my memory seem to shift and slip in time:  the path blurs …

And I look for our footsteps:  footsteps that seem to stretch out from me to you.

And then I look up:  I look up and then back.

The life the looking and the looking the lost.

And each step singular, solitary.

Going on and on …

And they are fading:  my eyes …

I trace their image in the sand.

And while still I scrutinize my sight.

It’s useless:  I know.

I cannot see.

And the words are lost.

Going:  going on …

And as I walk I feel as if my entire body is weighed down by a sense of extraordinary heaviness.  As if time has stayed with me, growing bloated and cumbersome, flabby in the flesh.  It’s the horror of all that living – all that looking back – all that memory.  I’m sure.

And the fact that you left.

You disappeared.

It was too much for me to bear.

Your leaving …

Love.

Do you see?

And I felt as if I were sinking beneath some enormous weight.  As if I were finally to go under:  to drown.

And I look.

I look:  I see.

And as you tossed your hair behind you it streamed out into the light, a river.

And for seven whole days I sat beside this river.

And I was utterly unkempt:  dishevelled, neglected, unwashed.

I did not eat.

I did not drink.

Anxiety and tears were my nourishment.

And I was alone but for time:  time was my only and spiteful companion.

And I waited.

I waited.

I watched.

And still I watched.

Again and again.

And I watched your face as it disappeared:  floating away from me forever.

A snare, a trap.

In time:  in memory.

And that moment in memory endlessly replayed so as to seem at last quite timeless:  eternal.  As if always in my mind.  And that precise moment of parting:  that final touch.  And I feel it still now as if again I hold your hand.

Do you remember?

And I hold your hand as if we’re scared.

A dark, deathly cinema.

And now we’re both of us trapped:  imprisoned.  As if confined, alone, forever:  unhappy spirits in this ghostly world of memory.  And it’s like a world of private torture:  a hell of remembering.  Don’t you see?

And you must understand …

I only looked to see that you were there:  to tell you that I loved you.

And then at once you were gone – just like that!

A fading flickering farewell …

As if vanished in my looking back:  the blinking of an eye.

And then nothing.

A blank, arid nightmare.

Going:  gone …

Like a lost goodbye.

Do you remember?

 

But I swear:  I swear I didn’t know – I didn’t realize.  And what was I supposed to do?  What should I have done?  Should I have somehow kept hold of my eyes?  Is that it?  Should I have kept my eyes to myself?  Is that what I should have done?

But no:  I opened my eyes.

And I opened my eyes at the beginning, that’s all, and ever since I’ve been struggling to see my best:  to see well the world.  And then I loved the world and sang with all things.  Why not?  I couldn’t help it …

And then I bathed my eyes in the richness of it all.  And it was as if they opened up wider and wider for the love of it:  the sheer exuberance of all the wonder.  And so my eyes became lost, I suppose:  lost in the glory of their looking love.

And that was when I first saw you, my love.  And I never meant to fail you.  I was looking to love – that’s all.  ‘Don’t look back!’, I knew, ‘don’t look back, don’t look back!’  But I was excited and confused, I suppose.  ‘Don’t look!  Don’t look!’  And for a moment I forgot – or was I cursed?  And I tried so hard to focus, to concentrate.  And you wanted me to look.  You wanted me to look back.  I remember.  Look me in the eyes, you said:  why don’t you look me in the eyes?  As if eye to eye.  But I never wanted to fail you:  of course I didn’t.  I wanted to love you:  to save you.  And I never wanted to hurt you with my eyes.  And perhaps I really should have just kept them to myself.  And I should have kept them forever turned away.  Who knows?  But then:  I looked.  And I just looked to love – that’s all.  And I looked to love to see your precious eyes.  And I wanted to see you alive and well.  And so I looked back:  I looked to love again.  And there you were – for a moment – your lovely liquid eyes.  Blue eyes, green eyes.  Eyes of the sea and the sky.  Those watery, watery eyes.  But only for a moment.  And then you were gone:  gone from me forever …

My blinded memory:  looking lost.

My eyes.

And it was like drowning.

Yes:  I remember.

It was like drowning.

But …

I ask you:  I ask you again.

Do you remember?

 

Yes:  I remember.

After all:  I am nothing now but remembering.

And I am only remembering:  the memory.

And for the moments that remain I am only living in memory:  living memory …

And I am only and always living in memory.

Only memory.

Departed.  Dying.  Dead.

And the thought of it:  the thought of death.

It’s like nothing now.

A blank, arid nightmare.

And your face folding, melting, as if crumpling up into a scream of anguish:  your features a contortion of all the pain and anger, the bitterness and the horror.

A silent scream.

But your face was once so beautiful.

Do you remember?

While now it’s hollow and haunted – sucked dry of all its hope and possibility.  And it’s as if all life has now been bled from it – leaving only the staring panic and the pale green sickness and the shadows around the cheeks and eyes.  And the face now formless in the darkness:  this empty screaming darkness.  Going down and down.  Going on and on.

And I turn my eyes inwards:  the colour of my eyes washed out in their whites and now vacant, blind.

My eyes are open or closed.

They are blind or seeing.

It doesn’t matter:  it doesn’t really matter anymore.

Not now.

And I see you anyway.

And I keep on seeing you.

And I see you still.

And in a way that’s all I wanted.

I wanted to see you – that’s all.

And I wanted to see you so badly.

As I see you now:  my love.

And so I failed you.

And I failed you once again:  looking back …

Do you remember?

 

Yes.

I remember.

And I remember the look of horror in your eyes:  your eyes fading away from me into the darkness of my memory, a red blurry tempest of despair, looking back out of love, in memory, in time.

And it was like an act of betrayal, I know:  an atrocity of time.

Time that tyrannical changeling, the hidden enemy seen only through its traces in the past:  terrible, thieving time with all its secret schemes and manipulations, so subtle, so silent.

And it’s like a cold, evil wind.

Or a snake in the grass.

It’s biting, poisonous.

A stinging pain to steal you away from me forever.

So that again I look back.

And you’re gone.

 

And a trickster:  a liar.

Still now:  this moment.

This last moment of looking back …

So that I look back only at the looking back:  I look back only at the looking back.

And it’s like a hall of mirrors.

Maddening, my memory.

And so I fail you yet again in looking back.

A curse.

As if I’m cursed to fail you at every single moment:  even now in my memory.

And I ask you:  how can I look back?

How can I keep on looking back?

And how can I continue to fail you, betray you?

Or how can I not?

But then for me to keep on failing you – to continue failing you again and again – and still to keep on failing you, it seems – to keep on failing you again and again and again – looking back – looking back and always looking back …

And it’s as if there is no escape from time.

Not yet.

Not yet.

Be patient, my memory.

Time is not yet ready:  ticking on, ticking on.

And it plays games with us now, I know, I understand:  passing too slowly, too painfully.

Time is a torture.

And we struggle, but …

Straining and stretching, it refuses to let me go, it refuses to release me.

Not yet.

Not yet.

But the going on seems so slow:  too slow …

As if to slow down on purpose.

Slow:  slower …

Slower than ever.

And it’s precisely this that drives me mad:  this slowness that sends me insane …

The weight of my body, sinking:  sinking beneath some enormous weight.  As if I were finally to go under …

And I seem to fall so slowly, in time.

A year, a month, a day.

Trickling through …

Second by second.

Until at last:  a last, dying second which seems now to last for all of time, stretching out as if from birth to death, before, beyond.

So that a moment seems in itself like a memory of time.

And memory reduced to just this brief, passing moment.

A moment a memory:  passing, in time …

I loved you.

Do you know that?

I loved you.

Looking back …

 

And I failed you.

I failed you but of course I did not mean to fail you.

Not you:  not ever.

The thought destroys me.

I loved you:  that’s all.  And absolutely:  like life itself.  My breath, my love.

And so I came for you:  I followed and reached out for you.

I was looking to love you, I was looking to love you, I was only looking to love you, I was only, – I – I was only …

I wanted to help:  to save you with my love.

That’s all.

But it seems I could not help but respond to the touch of your hand, the feel of your hand in mine.  And then your warm breath flowing gently across my neck so that I could not help but feel your nearness …

I was in my element.

With you.

With you so near …

And we were almost to the light:  almost in the light.

And I was singing …

Do you remember?

And soon we’d dissolve in love.

Soon:  so soon.

As so often before.

Like two currents that merge together to form a pool of intimacy.

And so I looked:  I looked to love …

But you wanted that.  You wanted me to look at you:  I know you did.  I remember.  You wanted me to turn around and to look at you.

‘Look at me!’, you said.

I’m sure you did:  I’m sure you said it.

‘Look at me, look at me!  Look at me, my love!  And why won’t you look at me?  And look me in the eyes!’

And then:

‘Are you ashamed to look at me?

Am I repulsive now?

Is that it?

Or do you not love me, after all?’

And so I turn.

I look.

But …

Don’t look back, don’t look back!

Don’t look, don’t look!

But I looked – looking – looking back.

I looked to see you.

I looked to love.

That’s all.

Do you remember?

 

Yes.

I remember everything, it seems.  So much remembering, what power of memory.

And it’s maddening, this memory:  a hell of remembrance.

But still I try to follow.

And I shall follow you always:  wherever you go, wherever you are.

I shall follow you always, my love.

Down and down and down and down.

Down into the very darkest pits of hell if needs be.

But I promise …

No more looking back!

And no more the madness.

Going:  going on.

And I shall come.

I shall follow.

The moment the memory.

I remember.

 

And we are like flowers.

This is what I said to you.

Do you remember?

We are like flowers.

Flowers from the earth.

And we reach up to the air like the flowers scattered liberally around our feet.

Sparkling, the sun …

And I watch you singing and dancing.

And …

Blossoming forth from your fingers, the flowers, I think, dance with you, as if listening to your music.

And I watch you as you touch each one.

Gently, memory.

Be gentle.

Breathing in:  breathing out.

Each scent is a delight.

And the splashes of different colour are as if you paint them across your vision …

The white stars of the lilies of the valley;  daisies white and red;  bluebells and bellflowers;  golden rod and marigold;  eyes bright and butter angels;  yellow narcissus;  forget me not.

And you touch each one.

The colours in your hands and hair.

The colours in your eyes.

Look at me!

Look at me!

You said.

And I look …

And your eyes are like two sky blue flowers.

They are the hint of a dream.

 

And I told you:

Lift up your eyes.

Stand up …

And standing upright as if born directly from the ground, rooted in it, we towered into the sky, tall and proud like trees, upright upon the face of the earth.

We began to walk.

And it was like walking in paradise.

Our very own Eden.

And I said:

The dew and the grass, the flowers and the trees, the rivers and the fields, the mountains and the seas – they’re like a chorus of voices combined in glory.  And even the sky seems at times to be singing.  And it’s a song of light.  Of all …  As if the entire earth is singing!

So I took you by the hand and with the music of these voices I sang to you.

I sang of love and beauty.

I sang of dance and song itself.

Movement, creativity …

The world.

I sang of you.

And to each song I tried to give a fullness of meaning.

So that as I sang I had, at times, the feeling of coming close, nearer, I mean, to an understanding of shape and structure, the hidden design.

But how can I describe this?

For me it marked the end of difference.

No:  not difference.  Everything was different, each tiny little detail, gloriously so.  Not difference then.  But separation: mind and matter, soul and body, the tame and the wild, the animated and the silent still.  Crude examples, I know.  Words to walk on like a path …  And the differences are still there but with each step taken they diminish in importance:  no longer obstacles to understanding.  It was the end of separation:  the end of distance.

Or perhaps I speak of judgment.  As if there’d be no more judgment:  no more ordering of value.  As if all the categories, hierarchies, ranks and stations of the world – in size and stature, worth and meaning – were unnecessary.  They could gradually be erased.  And each person, each object, each moment in time, were then to be seen as if purely in themselves.  And this in itself would be plenty.

So it was of this, then, that I wished to sing.

My eyes, streaming …

And I said:

I can dance with this music!

The movement like floating in the sky …

And I step out.

I step out into the sky as in a dream:  walking slowly, one step at a time.  Until above and all around me there is nothing but the sky.  And it’s like a pale blue wash of possibility.  And looking into it I see it for a moment as if entirely clearly, clearly in its entirety:  I know, I understand.  And it’s as if all is reflected back at me in the sky:  like in a mirror.  And at once I read its meaning.  I can read the meaning in the sky.  And at last to sing:  to sing its song …

But then:  looking down …

Lift your eyes.

I said.

Lift your eyes, my love.

Open wide your eyes and look at me as I am.

Eyes fully opened and face turned upwards towards the sky.

Your eyes are like a paradise.

Your eyes are paradise.

And then you laughed.

But your laughter was different now.

You looked away.

Do you remember?

You looked away.

 

And true love never runs smoothly:  or so they say …

 

But why?

Why did you look away from me then?

Why did you ever look away?

 

And run.

You began to run.

Do you remember?

You ran and you ran and you ran.

Why?

Why were you running?

Why were you running, my love?

Running.

Running away.

As if running all the time.

Running.

For life.

For love.

Do you remember?

 

And tell me.

Was I to look, or not?

Was I to look and not to see?

Is that it?

And what was I supposed to have seen or not seen that was so terrible …

You:  my love?

And how could I have known?

Then.

How could I know?

How could I understand?

And blind from the beginning, forbidden to see:  should I have torn out my eyes at the start?

Really:  I ask you.

I ask you again.

What should I have done?

And …

Tell me!

Tell me!

Why don’t you tell me?

And tell me now …

So tell me, my love:  just tell me.

Please:  I beg of you.

And a sound in this dreadful screaming silence.

Whispering in my ear.

And I’m going mad:  I know.

But this silence will tell me:  this silence will surely tell me.

This silence will tell me something.

Surely.

This silence …

Again and again:  more, always more.

Deeper, darker …

Going on.

Do you remember?

 

Yes.

And I remember that day:  what a day that was.

The day that you ran from me:  stolen in the air.

The day that you were taken.

As if the day the death …

 

And do you remember the breeze?

The breeze that began so gently, at first:  at first it seemed so cool.  And it was like a whisper in the sky, nothing more:  a sweet sigh the soft wind.  A voice in the song.  Singing softly the flowers, the trees:  swaying gently in the wind.  And it was like a lullaby:  a dream of gentle movement, listening, a trance.  But then the change, the changes:  listen always for the changes.  And at first so slow, subtle, barely noticeable.  Soft and gentle.  At first.  Assuming nothing.  Waiting.  So that I thought:  I shall float gently upon this wind.  I shall dance with it.  And feel it in the air …

But I wasn’t thinking.

Not thinking.

Not seeing.

I was as if blinded – drugged.  Not even anxious:  the fool!  And I’d simply no fear, that’s all:  I didn’t think to fear the change, do you see?  It was just a world taken up upon a breeze, like a dream.

Or so I thought.

But I should have stopped:  I should have known.

And then this wind was suddenly a wind of terrible thieving change:  icy cold and razor sharp, getting always stronger and stronger.  And it was like a slithering seductive chill that rose up from the ground and entered into your bones.  It was like a snake in the grass.  It was …

And for you it seemed impossible to resist.

That fanged wind:  hateful serpent lust.

To bite into your flesh.

To want you:  to take you.

And to steal you away:  to steal you away from me forever …

Your laughter and your loving, your smiles and songs, all poisoned in my memory.

And then forgotten.

Far away:  forever.

And hearing nothing now in the roar of this terrible wind:  it’s impossible to go on.

Don’t you see?

And no matter where I turn it seems to rush there before me, this wind:  so that everything is blowing around and away in a chaos of violent movement.

And it wants everything, this violence:  it’s devouring all.

Although to begin with …

To begin with just those tiny lacerations that we all of us suffer:  day in, day out …

But then the cutting, slashing.

Cut, cut:  slash.

Cutting:  cutting.

My face, my arms, my legs …

Blowing around and away:  my thoughts above all, my mind.

So that everything changes in my memory:  turned around and upside down.

A chaos of movement …

And the seasons change constantly.

The grass is flattened.

The flowers dying and the trees uprooted.

The river is raging and the plains flooded.

The sea is sobbing and the mountains crying out.

And the time is changing …

And will soon be lost.

Do you remember?

 

Yes:  I remember.

 

And one day, soon, the grass shall grow from my eyes.

And some day, soon, the grass shall grow from my eyes.

And I’ll be pushing up the daisies.

 

And your eyes.

I should have seen them.

Lovely, liquid.

I should have known.

That day.

Your eyes …

As if lost to sight:  stolen away …

And finally you’d gone, disappeared.

Taken away from me:  gone forever.

Missing …

As if you’d dissolved:  drowning in the darkness.

A sudden night.

Night eyes – a cold wind – black sun.

And nothing.

Nothing now but memory.

Wintry memory.

 

And the voices:  so many voices.

Like echoes in the silence …

 

But my eyes grow dim and darken:  my face tickled by a tear.

And I cannot find the light:  even my failure grows dark.

Dark:  darker …

And the past so dark that now it’s hard to see.

And I’m a blur in my memory.

Going on.

 

But still I say:

Open your eyes.

Open your eyes.

 

And I see you.

I see you again.

Once more:  only once.

I held your hand.

Do you remember?

Don’t look back!

You said.

Don’t look back!

Don’t look back!

And then …

Again I’m alone.

But yes.

Yes:  I remember you.

In my dreams I still remember you.

And I remember you often in my haunted nightmares.

 

But listen.

I’m lying flat on my back with my thoughts still loose, wandering:  it’s only this present moment which it seems I’ve forgotten in the past.

A moment:  a memory.

And I ask again:

Will these memories last forever?

Still upon a point of clarity?

I wonder.

And will they remain, even when I’m gone, vivid, living still?

Still here, for example, in a moment or two from now?  An hour, perhaps?  Or a day?  A week?  A month?  A year?  Forever more … ?

Lingering.

Longing.

Or will they, too, find at last some rest?

I wonder.

And how strange to think these thoughts:  these thoughts that now are somehow the remainder of my memories.  And the future and the past are both collapsing, collapsing as if the one upon the other:  myself caught between them, the blood running thinner, slipping away, like my breath, lost,  in time, vanishing in the wind.

The blood.

And the blood as if still running:  still running from a thousand tiny cuts.

And I ask you:

Was it really necessary to make so many?

I don’t know, now:  I can’t think.

And I’ve no answer to give:  none to break the silence.

Perhaps an answer in itself …

A faint, half smile …

As the blood runs …

Trickling out in a thousand narrow rivulets …

Flowing fast …

Running …

And pouring out from my veins.

My arms and legs:  my hands and feet.

My ears and nose and throat.

My chest.

My heart.

My eyes.

And the blood bleeding from my eyes.

And looking down …

My body, heavy, in the blood.

And it’s like a great weight falling forever in the darkness:  a great weight falling forever in the darkness.

This awful consciousness.

Awake!

Awake!

 

And at last:  the end.

And I bleed myself dry.

And rising up above the surface of my thoughts, I float there: floating still, for the moment, like an island, an island adrift upon a blood red sea.

Imagine.

And it’s like an island of paradise:  waiting.

While the blood, like tears …

And I look.

Looking out.

Asking:

Where are you, my love?

Where are you?

And I listen …

Always I listen …

The voices.

Echoes.

But seeming still so far away, so far …

But don’t look back …

I remember.

Don’t look back!

Don’t look back!

But I’m weakening:  I feel so tired.

And these voices will make me sleep.

Sleep again …

So soon.

The echoes …

And how strange is this music:  the silence …

Can you hear it?

And this is my voice:  my mouth wide open …

The silence.

And then I open my eyes.

And at last I try to see.

Although my eye itself is bleeding.

I feel it.

And I look up and the sky is blood red.

And the blood …

The blood.

Again and again the blood.

Do you remember?

 

Yes.

I remember.

 

Once more the blood.

 

And I thought I’d never do it:  never reach it.

What hell …

Going:  going on …

Until at last I hear nothing.

Nothing:  only silence.

And the words, in the end, just bled from me.

And how happy I am.

How happy.

 

 

 

“The Voice of Blood” by Bede Nix
© Bede Nix, 2002. All rights reserved.
(60,754 Words)
Not for publication or quotation without permission.

INSPIRATION - BLUE SKY THINKING

INSPIRATION – BLUE SKY THINKING

(A work in progress, and in confidence)

I.

Inspiration, in glimpses of blue sky thinking – and blue sky mind
And this, then, a book of reflections, upon the infinite blue, of bliss
(As if a mirror to the sky)
A commonplace book, full of ordinary life experience, it’s true,
As if a book of days, no more
And yet a book, too, of changes – small changes, small adjustments, to awaken a greater mindfulness, hopefully – maybe – and to act, perhaps, as a sort of template for living, as if a first draft, incomplete, and unfinished, of a life’s hurried and imperfect script
And it’s also a journey of meditation, and meditations,
From emptiness, and
Upon emptiness, and
In emptiness,
Breathing …
Quietly breathing, body gently swaying, heart beating, thoughts arising
In questions, seeking answers, that
Answering,
Are assuring, reassuring
And freeing
So that
In confidence,
Breathing, this
That
Next breath
Comes
Dancing, Thoughts
And ­–
From Inspiration
In Inspiration
Calling out
For Inspiration
We seek
And we speak
Open hand, open heart, open mind
And in gentle touch, a thought
(My love)
A word,
Calling out, in the beginning, as at the end, perhaps …
To you.

And ‘Grant me a nature’, says Coleridge, ‘having two continuous forces, the one of which tends to expand infinitely, while the other strives to apprehend or find itself in this infinity, and I will cause the world of intelligence to rise up before you’.

A world of intelligence.
Intelligence. Intelligence. Intelligence.
How, then, to develop, this intelligence, this deeper intelligence, that may, over time, clear a path, in the heart, in the mind, to wisdom, meaning a place, a room, in the house, of the wise.
And the answer may be surprisingly simple, if subtle, and perhaps goes something like this,
My friend,
Don’t think yourself too intelligent, as if already you knew all the answers, all the answers, all-knowing, and knowing everything.
And don’t be a know it all.
No, for the mind must surely be open – there must be room for questioning, doubt, uncertainty,
And expansion,
Like a universe.
And, not thinking yourself too intelligent, try then not to judge – and, that’s to say, try not to judge, and to act as if really you knew what you were talking about, were convinced of that, indeed, and considered yourself in a position to judge.
No. Not at all.
And try, rather, to loosen up a bit; to loosen up your anxious, fearful, controlling, rigid, angry, “I”.
Let him go of him entirely, indeed; be gone – the fool!
And instead breathe freely; breathe again freely.
And, breathing freely, see how thoughts arise, gently, upon gentle waves of gentle thinking, in quiet mind
And seated comfortably now, so comfortably, in the greater Self,
Be as no one
And one
Who
Begins then, very slowly, very carefully, to read,
And to read, not only the seemingly obvious, and the apparently meaningful,
But to read also, and most especially, in the quiet spaces, at first seeming empty, blank, between the lines …
And to read between the lines
And to read between the lines
And again to read between the lines
For this, truly, is intelligence.

Wake up, then, the mind;
and may our hearts be opened.

[For] ‘… [t]here are so many dawns that have not yet shed their light’. (The Rig Veda)

 

 

And still the sun shines new each day.

And:

‘Through countless wandering
Hastening, lingering
From far I come
And pass from place to place
In a sleep-wandering pace
To seek my home …
[Edwin Muir]

‘Seeing the landscape, sketching a mindscape, gathering together the elements of a world …’ (Kenneth White)

And so you say to yourself: this text, here, in my hands, and beneath my eyes, these words, gathered here, and these many letters, so arranged, are letters to my unconscious, as if messages to myself. And, as I write out these letters, I say to you: just think of it – picture it – imagine it – in line with my words. And say to yourself: this is all so true. Something like self-help, quite simply.

And listen, then, for the sound of silence.
A silence deep and profound.
And then, if you find it helpful, and as if to sound the silence, and the mind, ring then, in thought, a clear bell, a mindfulness bell.
(And hear it sound … )
And think of it, if you will, as a call to awareness, to attention, and perhaps also to prayer.
And, as you explore your awareness, and your attention …
And, as you pray, see too if you cannot also give praise;
Prayer, and praise …
And  raise, then, your hands and arms above your head, then to your forehead, then to your chest.
And adopt an attitude of gratitude.
Open your hands, and open wide your arms.
And open your heart, and mind.
And, freeing now your true voice, to sound,
Feel free, to love.

And look, look at me, take a good look at me, look at me closely, look at me carefully, and observe me in as much of my fulness as you can manage, for here I am, in your reflection: human being.
A real man. And a real woman.
Totally woman. Totally man.
Gendered, and transgendered.
Heterosexual, or …
Gay … or bisexual … or lesbian …
Transsexual man. Transsexual woman.
And simply so sexual, and sexy.
Simply so sexual, and sexy.
Simply so sexual, and sexy.
Simply so sexual, and sexy.
And, my goodness, so sexually and sexily fluid in so many magnificent and beautiful, meaningful, marvellous ways …
(Such energy, glorious … and such love for life!)
Butch girl, and effeminate boy.
Call me he, or she.
A little of one, and all.
All, and nothing.
And everything in between.
Whatever – no matter.
And, all in all, an extraordinary spectrum of sensation; and a rainbow of many colours, quite simply.
And our names are all human.
Human.
Human.
Human.
So do let’s try, and do let’s try, and do let’s try.

And do let’s try to open up our minds, a little, and a little more, and more, to understanding.

And I try simply to open up my mind to understanding.

And should you not yet wish to join me in growing into an ever fuller and richer being, and being the very best that you can possibly be, and in this way becoming a little like a god – divining the divine call, and then calling out together, as if one voice, to raise the collective energy – then you would do me a wrong, and fail, and disappoint me, for our lives are interwoven, my friend, my life, with yours, your life, with mine, and together we weave a whole, as if we were all of us woven from the same human fabric, and all of us cut from the same human cloth, all human textured, and skinned, somehow, and all forming a small but vital part of the same human story.

Seek holiness, then.
Become A Whole.
Be whole.

And do all you can
With what you have
In the time you have
In the place you are
Do all you can

A life of prayer, in praise of all that is; holding everything dear.

And this everything, my dear reader, what is it?

It is what is; it is what is meant to be; it is what needs to be; it is the ultimate reality trip; it is what needs to be; it is what is meant to be; it is what is.

(And, as if a breath, divine, and seemingly without beginning, or end).

(Go on).

And, thanks to this English language in which now we write, and read, we can in any case leap easily in imagination from “I” to “You”; for this “You” is, somehow, the “Youniverse”, if you will (and I do will), and a universe made up of all there is and, at one and the same time, made up only, made up only of (and by) you, yourself, your you yourself, and, as if, then, this, your, you, yourself, were nothing less than an absolute expression, in the mind – all in the mind – in the mind, an absolute expression, of infinity, individually unique, but collectively whole, the universe, a single verse of poetry, a vibrating, humming, enchanting, delirious hymn, of thanks, and praise, and a whole-hearted love.

Listen.
We sing because we have a song.
We are the song, and we are the singing.

And I have heard a zen koan described as follows:
The place and the time and the event where truth reveals itself.

Be Here Now.

And, as you look around, and as, looking around you, in curiosity, you discover, and examine, your world, you should know that what you see, or what you appear to be seeing, or what you imagine yourself seeing, and who you are, or who you appear to be, or who you imagine that you are, that you, that I, that who, who sees, is, to a very great extent, the extent of your world, your reality, and the extent of you, who you, that you, that you call you, whoever you, may be. And for this reason alone, and above all, open wide your eyes. And, why not, then, enlarge your world; and open yourself up, to a greater, a far greater, an ever greater, and forever greater, reality.

And perhaps it would help to try also to put into words what you see. And to be honest about that: to tell it as it is. For this, for now, is your reality. And it’s not only that you form a part of it, if only in a modest way adding something, contributing something, to that reality that currently you perceive; no, for you must also assume it, own it, take responsibility for it and, where necessary, change it. And so do not stand back or stand by. Try, rather, to be an active part of this (your) story as it unfolds: make it up, if you have to, invent a new story, then act in it, and act it out, and act up, and act now. And get with the plot, in other words, and step forward and, moving, entering, the picture, take a stand, and make it so.

In the words of *Proust, “[T]he real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

My friend, draw upon your inspiration like water from a bottomless well.

Be inspired
Thinking it up
Thinking it through
And, thinking it through,
And, thinking it through, through ink, in ink,
And, thinking it through, through ink,
Thinking through ink,
Thinking through ink, with pen, and paper,
Putting pen, to paper,
And thinking it through,
And writing it down,
And writing it all down,
Right now
Write now
As word, and …

Words on a page.
Words on a page, so many; words …
Words on a page.

Tingling … tinkling … inkling … thinkling …

And to realize yourself as being now again so creative … and to find that you are feeling so free, now … and so immensely inspired …

(And, trust me, if you realized just how free, and how radically free, you were, right now, and always, your heart would blossom open, and burst into an indescribable bloom of joy!)

And Einstein explains that there are two ways to live life: one, as if nothing were a miracle; and the other, as if everything were a miracle.

And some say, like *Eden Phillpotts, that the world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our eyes to grow sharper.

And so I ask you:
What draws your eye?
What do you see?
And what, your point of view?
What, your perspective?
What do you think?
What do you say?
And what, then, your part?

Listen:

Happiness is a butterfly that, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which, if we sit down quietly, may yet alight upon us. (Words attributed to Nathaniel Hawthorne.)

And surely it is foolish to pursue what the Japanese call “Karoshi”, or death by overwork; far wiser it would be, perhaps, to pursue a Zen path of non-activity. The Chinese call this “Wu Wei”. Learn to relax; to sit properly (“Seiza”); to sit still; to be still.

And recall Blaise Pascal’s observation, that “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

So come, then, please, and sit; sit quietly here beside me; come, sit beside me, come sit with me; come sit with me, here, beside me, if only for a spell; and let me be your company …

In addition, beginning now, shall we not see if we cannot pay closer attention, and start to let go; and pay attention, and start simply to let go; as if, paying attention, and letting go, letting completely go, and letting go, completely, of all the tension that has accumulated in the body, and, all the tension, attention, that now, finally, letting it all go, and letting it all go, and letting it all go, not only there, there you go, but also here, finally, you are, you truly are, and being deeply relaxed, and present, you are, truly, and one.

And, at the same time, let go of all your thoughts, also; let go of all your thoughts, too; and all your mental chatter.

Let go of your mind.

And allow yourself gently to fall into rest.

(And to surrender).

And now, if you’re still following and understanding me, as I believe that you are, your mind joins mine, your voice, joins, my voice, joins, your words, joins, my words, and, in joining, enjoys expanding, developing, deepening, quietening, a little, ever so little, and ever so little, by little, enjoying, in joining, my mind, stream, in joining, enjoying, your mind, stream, streaming, inward, in, flowing outwards, onwards, thinking, thought.

So that we begin now perhaps to see a little more clearly, and we begin now to understand, how now, how, to understand.

For the whole universe surrenders to, and bows down before, a quiet mind.

The whole universe surrenders to, and bows down before, a person of stillness.

Sit quietly, then; be still, be calm, be patient; let’s take our time.

And: “Do not expect full realization”, says Milarepa; “simply practice every day of your life”.

Do your practice, and all is coming.

For practice makes perfect.

Practice makes perfect.

And practice makes always perfect.

Do your practice, then.

And repeat, indefinitely.

Every day, definitely, and with quiet determination.

Over and over again.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Every day, your life.

Life story.

Practice.

And this deepening practice may itself, over time, in time, be practically perfection.

Do your practice, then.

And all is coming.

For practice, as we know, makes perfect.

 

And know, too, that the gift of truth conquers all gifts. The taste of truth conquers all sweetness. The joy of truth conquers all pleasures. And the loss of desires conquers all sorrows.

And the one of noble character, of virtue and vision, who follows the Path of Perfection, whose words are truth, and who does the work to be done – the world shall love such a person.

And the man or woman whose mind, filled with determination, is longing for the infinite, and who is free from sensuous pleasures, is called uddham-soto, “he or she who goes upstream”, for against the current of passions and worldly life he or she is bound for the joy of infinite bliss …

And shall we then set off together in a cheerful little boat, upstream, to a land of peace and tranquillity whose green gardens are watered always by running streams … ?

And we’re sure to sleep there upon a grass pillow.

And, light of heart, to dream of wandering into a grove of flowering plums …

***

Arise, then! Raise thyself by thy Self; train thyself by thy Self. And, under the shelter of the Self, and ever watchful, bright like a moon free from clouds, thou shalt live in supreme joy …

For the person whose hands are controlled, whose feet are controlled, who is self-controlled in all things, and who finds the inner joy, with a mind self-possessed, who is one and who dwells in a perfect inner peace; this person, one might call a religious, intimately bound up with the ways of the universe, and seeming, somehow, as if, a monk.

Monos – Solitary – Alone – All One – and Whole

Make, then, a splendid island for your Self. Hasten and strive. And be wise, when you can. And, with the dust of impurities blown off … come gladly unto the glorious land of the truly great and the profoundly wise.

***

And do try, to this end, to show self-control and moderation in what you eat.

Also familiarize yourself with the solitude of your room and your bed.

Recall these words: Faith – Watchfulness – Energy – Contemplation – Vision

And do not do what should not be done; do not hurt by deed or word, for example; and do not what is evil.

And instead do what should be done; do what is good.

Overcome anger, by peacefulness; overcome evil, by good; overcome the mean, by generosity; and overcome the one who lies, by truth.

Speak the truth, yield not to anger, and give what you can to whoever asks: these three steps alone will lead you to the feet of the gods.

Be wise; let your work be well done; live in love; and in truth, supreme; act in honour …

And keep your mind pure. Be awake. Know boundless joy.

For this is a search for highest consciousness.

Manifest, then, as your highest self, divine.

Asking: shall we then dance, you and I?

Dancing the Ananda Tandava, as if with Shiva, and Paravati …

And to connect to the five senses: hearing; smell; sight; touch; taste.

And to connect to the five elements: fire; water; earth; wind; ether.

And to dance the Cosmic Dance.

Happiness.

Bliss.

In making, and remaking

The World, as

Universe.

And, just as the bee takes the essence of a flower and flies away without destroying its beauty and its perfume, so may the sage thus wander freely in this life.

***

And see the Way of life as a stream. A person floats easily, the way is smooth. Flowing in the deeper currents, you may well pass through. The same person, turning away from and struggling against the current, becomes quickly exhausted. To be One with the Universe, find your current, your vibration, your wave, your flow, your stream, your path, your way, and surrender to it, as if all there is to do is do nothing, and only to follow.

***

Confucius tells us that the way of learning is nothing else but to seek for the lost mind.

In meditation it is possible to dive deeply into the mind and to know a place where there is no disturbance but only an absolute quietness and solitude. Try, then, to live in this state of deep meditation and contemplation: make yourself familiar with the solitude of silence and the joy of quietness. It is here, and now, in single-pointedness, in the profound stillness of supreme contemplation, that the sound of the supreme mind may itself be heard.

And the word “Sesshin” refers to “gathering the mind” or “stilling your thoughts”.

In Soto Zen, “shikantaza” means simply “sitting … just sitting”. That is, it is a form of meditation with no object, no anchor, no content. You strive, without striving, simply to be aware of the stream of your thoughts, allowing thoughts to arise and pass away without interference, and thereby going beyond the stream of thoughts, and into a great calm, and silence.

And when you are sitting in meditation in this way, and a thought drifts into your mind, remind yourself that, “that’s not my business”, and let the thought go …

For we practice precisely to learn how to let go, knowing that enlightenment appears when your mind is no longer muddied by wants and desires. It follows, then, that if you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. And if you let go completely, you will have complete peace.

Know, then, that when desires go, joy comes.

Do not think, however, that practice means only sitting with the eyes closed. Steady practice means keeping mindful in every posture, whether sitting, walking, standing, or lying down. When coming out of sitting, do not think that you are coming out of meditation, only that you are changing postures. If you reflect in this way, you will surely find peace. And so, wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, try to maintain this attitude of awareness.

And know that “Samadhan” means “constant concentration of the mind”.

Be mindful, then.

Be here now.

And Aristotle observed that, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”.

So know, then, that you are your own best teacher, and investigate yourself to find out your truth; go inside yourself. And knowing yourself is the most important thing, okay; so start by reading and rereading the lines of your key text: the heart. Learn them by heart. Know them by heart. Look to your heart. Look through your heart. Keep close to your heart. Keep heart. And then speak from the heart. And, in this way, become self-enlightened, and self-certified.

Says Watazumi Doso:

It’s fine that you are all deep into music. But there’s something deeper and if you would go deeper, and go to the source of where the music is being made, you’ll find something even more interesting. At the source, everyone’s individual music is made. If you ask what the deep place is, it’s your own life, and it’s knowing your own life, that own way that you live. And when you hear some music or hear some sound, if for some reason you like it very well, the reason is that that sound is in balance or in harmony with your pulse. And so, making a sound, you try to make different sounds that imitate various different sounds of the universe, but what you are finally making is your own sound, the sound of yourself.

And recall the trial of Joseph Brodsky:

The judge asks: “And what is your profession?”
Brodsky answers: “I am a poet and a literary translator”.
The judge: “Who recognizes you as a poet? Who enrolled you in the ranks of poets?”
Brodsky: “No one. Who enrolled me in the ranks of humankind?”
Judge: “Did you study this?”
Brodsky: “This?”
Judge: “How to become a poet. You did not even try to finish high school where they prepare, where they teach?”
Brodsky: “I didn’t think you could get this from school?”
Judge: “How then?”
Brodsky: “I think it comes … from God.”

Says Ajahn Chah:
The heart of the path is quite easy. There’s no need to explain anything at length. Let go of love and hate and simply let things be.

Breathe in deeply.
Then release, let go.
Exhale.
Relax.

***

And once upon a time in ancient Japan, a young man was studying martial arts under a famous teacher. Every day the young man would practise in a courtyard along with the other students. One day, as the master watched, he could see that the other students were consistently interfering with the young man’s technique. Sensing the student’s frustration, the master approached the student and tapped him on the shoulder. “What is wrong?”, enquired the teacher. “I cannot execute my technique and I do not understand why”, replied the student. “This is because you do not understand harmony. Please follow me”, said the master. Leaving the practice hall, the master and student walked a short distance into the woods until they came upon a stream. After standing silently beside the streambed for a few minutes, the master spoke. “Look at the water”, he instructed. “It does not slam into the rocks and stop out of frustration, but instead flows around them and continues down the stream. Become like the water and you will understand harmony.” Soon, the student learned to move and flow like the stream, and none of the other students could keep him from executing his techniques.

GO WITH THE FLOW

BE ZEN

Try to be mindful and let things take their natural course. Then your mind will become still in any surroundings, like a clear forest pool. All kinds of wonderful, rare animals will come to drink at the pool, and you will clearly see the nature of all things. You will see many strange and wonderful things come and go, but you will be still. This is happiness.

And when we observe things calmly we notice that all things have their fulfilment, says Basho Matsuo.

(It’s a cause for celebration).

(It calls for celebration).

(Okay, then; let’s celebrate, let’s have a party!)

And we see that certain messages appear, clothed in different words and phrases, again and again. They urge us to develop enthusiasms, to take action, to face up to fears, to never give up, to believe in ourselves, not to be daunted by the mistakes of the past, and to regard each new day as a miracle.

The great essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. (Joseph Addison)

And the cure for boredom is curiosity.

(And there is no cure for curiosity).

Listen, then, to me.

If you find a man, or a woman, who is constant, awake to the inner light, learned, long-suffering, endowed with devotion, a noble man, or woman – follow this good and great person even as the moon follows the path of the stars.

AND OUR EYES ARE A WINDOW TO THE SOUL, they say.

LOOK INTO MY EYES!

LOOK INTO MY EYES, DEEPLY, GO DEEPLY, GO AS FAR AS YOU CAN, THEN GO FURTHER, THEN FURTHER STILL: LOOK INTO THE DEPTHS OF MY EYES; GO DEEPLY, DEEPLY DOWN, GO DEEPLY DOWN, THEN DEEPER STILL; GO TO YOUR GREATEST DEPTHS, MY EYES.

And tell me:

WHAT DO YOU SEE IN THE DEPTHS OF MY EYES?

NOW WHAT DO YOU SEE IN THEM, THERE, AT THE VERY DISTANT LIMIT OF YOUR SEEING?

WHAT IS IT THAT NOW YOU SEE?

***

No, don’t worry – I’m just teasing you.

This isn’t the movies you know!

This is for real.

And yet, what is this reality?

The world, after all, is but a canvas to our imagination.

And this reality is in my head, like a fabulous dream, full with emptiness: the world is in my head.

And this reality is in my body, inhabiting it with ease, like a familiar land: my body is in the world.

My body is in the world.

The world is in my head.

And if the eyes are a window to the soul, as they say, and the voice – this voice – is a passage to the heart.

My friend: go to the heart of what you want to say; speak always from the heart!

(Knowing that it’s not about how your voice compares to those of others; it’s about HOW SOUND YOU ARE, AND HOW YOU SOUND).

And, speaking from the heart – take these words to heart – and then read this text, aloud, then reread it, again, and again, day after day, repeating it time and time again, time after time, time upon time: and glimpses of blue sky mind, we’ll call it. INSPIRATION.

For a person is what he or she deeply desires; as you think, so you are.

And wherever your mind goes, your self follows.

And the flower returns to its root;
Even as the echo answers to the voice;
And even as the shadow follows the shape.

And as it is written in the Dhammapada:

What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow; our life is the creation of our mind.

(And as we have sown, so do we reap).

And if a man speaks but a few holy words and yet he lives the life of those words, free from passion and hate and illusion – with right vision and a mind free, craving for nothing both now and hereafter – the life of this man is a life of holiness.

So, I say to you: love not what you are but what you may become, for our aspirations are our potential, our possibilities, and our future.

And where some men see things as they are and say “why?”, I dream things that are not yet and say “why not?”

For a man or a woman is what he or she thinks about all day long.

And the greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitude of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.

The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven, says Milton.

Be mindful, then, of your thoughts.

Choose your path wisely.

Question your thinking and change the world; for these thoughts, too, these words, will change your life.

For it is said that, if you take an intention to your heart and repeat it there, 1,008 times a day for 45 days, your goal will be attained, and your dream made manifest.

You begin to achieve when you begin to believe.

Go confidently, then, and in good faith, with trust, in the direction of your dreams.

And, writing as if upon the sky, think your dreams to come true.

Live the life you have imagined and live it well, living completely in the present, launching yourself on every wave, finding your eternity in each and every moment.

(And know that our truest life is when we are in dreams awake. Dream, then, as on a bed of clouds; clouds, my pillow. And know that for you, my friend, the sky is the limit!)

And with the remainder of your time, simply listen; and listen carefully; and listen very, very, carefully.

Now.

***

As Blue walks into the labyrinth …

Absolute silence is demanded of all its visitors so that their presence does not disturb the poets who are directing the excavations. Digging can only proceed on the calmest of days as rain and wind destroy the finds.

The archaeology of sound has only just been undertaken and for the moment remains a somewhat haphazard discipline, more art than science.

Blue watches as a word or phrase materializes in scintillating sparks, a poetry of fire which casts everything into darkness with the brightness of its reflections.

Blue protects white from innocence.

Blue drags black with it

Blue is darkness made visible

And now I ask you in all seriousness:

Where are you placing your attention now that I distract you?

(Recalling that watchfulness is the path of immortality.)

Watchful amongst the unwatchful, awake amongst those who sleep, the wise man like a swift horse runs his race, outrunning those who are slow.

And the monk who has the joy of watchfulness and who looks with fear on thoughtlessness, he goes on his path like a fire, burning all obstacles that stand before him, both great, and small.

So, whatever you do, watch where you are going, and …

BE HERE NOW.

And now that you have collected yourself a little, please pay me some attention; heed my words.

Be conscious.

And I ask you: you can enjoy … how much … joy … do you think, then … that … you … and, can you, then … enjoy?

(And where are you placing your attention now, right now, this very moment?)

And listen …

I am sitting still.

I feel; I sense; I touch; I look; I watch; I listen; I learn.

I am quiet, calm, still, always observing, and observing everything with always the wide-eyed innocence of a child, seeking understanding.

And I know that the wise man removes impurities from himself even as a silversmith removes impurities from the silver: one by one, little by little, again and again.

I am alive.

And I am awake; and I am coming to be wide awake.

My mind is very alert.

My mind is clear.

And I know perfectly, in this moment, that energy is eternal delight, and that energy is something that I have in abundance, always.

And the wise man straightens his mind as a maker of arrows makes his arrows straight.

Channel, then, your energy.

Burning bright, one-pointedness.

Eternal … delight.

And I hear now, and realize, now, that each thought rings out with the clarity and brightness of a bell.

Like a call to prayer.

And notice, too, how easily I move from I to You, ebbing, and flowing, moving back and forth, easily, like the breath, like an inhalation to the ground of the self, a point lost in the infinite and then refound, and then an exhalation out to You, a point lost in the infinite and then again refound; breathing consciously; and, from consciousness, breathing.

(Yours. Mine. Whose. Me. We.)

And may you experience much loving kindness.

And may you experience great compassion.

And may you know happiness and all the causes of happiness.

And may you know great joy.

And may you display great equanimity.

And may you attain enlightenment.

***

For such is life.

And wherever I go …

There you are.

And here I am.

And wherever I go …

And wherever you are …

Be here now.

For here is the most exciting of places.

And this is where it’s all happening, right now.

And so there’s nowhere better to be …

On earth, now; grounded.

And so be it, then; good.

And listen.

Ethics is easy.

Ethics, too: is easy; just easy does it; mind how you go.

For that deed is not well done when, being done, one has to repent; and when one must reap with tears the bitter fruits of the wrong deed.

And, if you think about it, a fool who thinks he is wise, and oh so terribly smart, and clever, in fact goes through life with himself as his greatest enemy, and he ever does wrong deeds which in the end bear bitter fruit.

And if, then, on the great journey of life, a man cannot find one who is better or at least as good as himself, let him joyfully travel alone, like a king who has left his country, or like a great elephant alone in the forest: for a fool cannot help him on his journey.

And true, too, that it is better to go alone on the path of life than to have a fool for a companion. With few wishes and few cares, and leaving all sins behind, let a man then travel alone, if such his need, and wish, like a great elephant alone in the forest. For he who can be alone and rest alone is never weary of his great work, he can live in joy, when master of himself, by the edge of the forest of human desires.

If, however, a fool can see his own folly, he is wise at least in this; but the fool who thinks he is wise, he is truly a fool.

And even if during the whole of his life a fool lives with a wise man, he never knows the path of wisdom as the spoon never knows the taste of the soup.

But if a man who watches and sees is only a moment with a wise man he soon knows the path of wisdom, as the tongue knows the taste of the soup.

Look, then, upon the man who tells thee thy faults, as if he had told you of a hidden treasure, for the wise man shows you the dangers of life. Follow that man: he who follows him will see good and not evil.

Let him admonish and let him instruct, and let him restrain from what is wrong. He will be loved by those who are good and hated by those who are not.

Have not for friends those whose soul is ugly; go not with men who have an evil soul. Have for friends those whose soul is beautiful; go with men whose soul is good.

He who drinks of the waters of Truth, he rests in joy with mind serene. The wise find their delight in the DHARMA, in the Truth revealed by the great.

And good men, at all times, surrender, in truth, their attachments. The holy spend not idle words on things of desire. When pleasure or pain comes to them, the wise are indifferent, feeling neither pleasure nor pain.

And he who for himself or others craves not for sons or power or wealth, who puts not his own success before the success of righteousness, he is virtuous, and righteous, and wise.

Few cross the river of time and are able to reach NIRVANA. Most of them run up and down only on this side of the river.

But for those who, when they know the law, follow the path of the law, they shall reach the other shore and go beyond the realm of death.

Leaving behind the path of darkness and following the path of light, let the wise man then leave his home life and go into a life of freedom. In a solitude that few enjoy, let him find his joy supreme: free from possessions, free from desires, and free from whatever may darken his mind.

For he whose mind is well trained in the ways that lead to light, who surrenders the bondage of attachments and finds joy in his freedom from bondage, and who, free from the darkness of passions, shines pure in a radiance of light, even in this mortal life he enjoys the immortal NIRVANA.

Aspire, then, to wisdom.

Asking:

Who are you?

This, at least.

Here, and now.

Present, in presence.

A gift.

***

And you are a person who carries with you, at all times, a small cloth or leather bag in which you have pens and paper, and a number of blank cards; a writing board; some glue and a small pair of scissors; a camera; the book that you are currently reading; a notebook containing words to learn from the various languages that you are studying; a notebook of quotations to learn by heart; your journal; your latest story or manuscript, in loose leaf and notebook form; and, finally, a rather special notebook that, for ease of reference, we shall call here “inspiration”.

(The Songs of the Sage).

And this notebook, entitled “Inspiration” is one of many notebooks that you are continually revising and updating. You are a person, after all, who takes notice: you are a person who takes notice of everything. And as you notice everything, so too do you make a mental note of everything. And, moving swiftly from thought to action, you immediately put pen to paper, noting down all your thoughts and impressions in your notebooks and journals. You keep a journal, too, in the sense of a travel log or waybook, an account of a journey through life, or of a record of a life lived moment by moment, thought by thought, line by line, day by day. You attempt to map out the vast territories of the mind – majestic, magnificent, beautiful, blissful – that mind – your mind – that can do such marvellous things – that mind that knows –

INSPIRATION.

Human alchemy.

And thinking …

And thinking …

And thinking …

And thinking it up; and thinking it through …

And thinking it through, through ink, in ink.

Ink!

Writing yourself out, and writing out the world.

And so again you put pen to paper: to write it down; to write it up; to write it out.

Write now.

***

INSPIRATION.

Human alchemy.

And now, going on with that inner journey, I want you to focus on your breath.

Be mindful of your breath.

Now …

This moment …

And make from your breath at once an anchor securing you to the bottom of the ocean and a springboard launching you high into the sky.

Make from your breath your sanctuary.

And you know, of course, that there is nothing more natural to you than breathing.

And, similarly, your heart continues to beat even when you are unaware of it doing so.

And of what else are you unaware?

Or of what else are you not yet aware?

And you have in fact been going farther and farther into trance your whole life: trance into transition into transformation.

And you have surely noticed that, when it needs to, your awareness migrates … automatically … following an inner voice, an inner awareness, a place, an inner space, of quiet comfort and effortless relaxation … where suddenly you know that the time is right for a change … and where suddenly you know the exact change needed … and you recognize that feeling now … as if an act of recognition … of re-knowing … of re-learning … of re-membering … that something needs to change … and that something needs to change … now … and naturally we can imagine what it might feel like to know without knowing what needs to be done, and to be told, without hearing, by an inner voice, an inner feeling, that … you … should … (DO THIS NOW) … and you, responding effortlessly, automatically, to this voice, observe the actions, the flow … of words … words forming associations … echoes … a galaxy of meaning … and this, an inner knowing … that tells you what to do, and when … and you, responding effortlessly, automatically, to this voice, observe the actions, the flow … of words … words forming associations … echoes … a galaxy of meaning … and this, an inner knowing … that tells you what to do, and when … and you … you are someone as if born with the knowledge … the intuition … the awareness … the wisdom … to know … to trust that feeling … naturally … and at the same time to be so comfortably aware of yourself … that at last … all is easy … and but a migration of thought … a migration of awareness … as your mind moves effortlessly now towards those things most needed …

And your mind is crystal clear.

Asking: what, then, is your plan of action? What is your life plan? And how do you wish, now, to proceed?

And I ask you, too: do you have any recollection, any recollection whatsoever, no matter how faint or vague, of how you learnt to learn? And have you any recollection, any recollection whatsoever, no matter how faint or vague, of how difficult it was for you to learn to recognize and to reach out for objects, for example, and likewise to learn to recognize the faces of those around you, and then to learn not only to cry but also how to make noises meaningfully, how to produce sounds with your breath, neck, tongue, mouth, voice, sounds in imitation of the sounds of nature, and sounds in imitation of the sounds, and voices, that you heard around you, and sounds that would soon form words to become speech, and then to learn how to eat without spilling all of your food down your chin, and to learn how to hold a knife and a fork, and to learn how to sleep quietly alone in your bed at night, tired but happy, and then to learn how to concentrate and focus, a concentration, a focus, on the strength of which you learn first how to raise your neck, then how to sit up, then how to stand up on your own two feet, and to walk, and you learn how to ride your bicycle, and you learn how to read and to write, and you learn, too, how to be patient, and how to listen, and how to hear, and how to look after things, and how to look after others, and how to love? And now you do not even know, I think, how you learned to remember to do any of those things, now, do you?

And I ask you: what do you have that you did not first receive?

Think of a sunbeam, a ray of outpouring light, a gift, to see.

(And, far away in that sunshine, beyond even the very farthest horizon, are my highest aspirations. I may not realize all of them but at least I may try to do so, as I look up, and recognize, their beauty, and believe in my dreams and aspirations, and follow them, and pursue them, saying:

Hold always near, and dear, to your heart, your hopes, and dreams.

And listen. What you do remember perfectly – now – what you do now know – is that you can learn whatever it is that you need to learn, and that you can do whatever it is that you need and want to do, and that you can always go to wherever you wish to go, and that you can think whatever you wish to think, and that you can write whatever you wish to write, and that you can be whatever you wish … to be … free … here … and now …

And you know full well that learning is easy when you are deeply relaxed.

And you are deeply relaxed.

For you know, now, what it feels like to be completely relaxed.

And condition, then, your mind, to this, this state, of deep, deep, deep, relaxation.

And take any doubts and anxieties and delusions and false beliefs that you may have, and see them now for what they truly are, as foolishness, as triviality, as nothing … and let them go, then, now, and let them fade away, completely, and let them disappear from your universe, forever.

And then set up a pattern … of letting go … so that your mind can follow naturally, easily, automatically.

And breathe freely.

So as to be relaxed, my soul, in soul Blue.

And to be relaxed, my sky, in sky Blue.

And to be (Ananda), my self, in self Bliss.

And I wonder: have you not realized that every blade of grass in a meadow and, that’s to say, every single blade of grass in a glorious, idyllic, summer meadow, is a subtly different shade of green?

Go take a look, my friend: look long and hard; then look again, and again.

And whatever you do, do not give up.

Rather, recall the words of Thomas Edison, that “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”.

And, facing it, always facing it. That’s the way to get through it. Face it. Let’s face it.

Do the thing and you will have the power.

Step out: the support will be there, the wire will support you, and you will come here to find your way, and to trust your way.

Tighten the rope. Sleep walk, if you wish.

Man on wire, on fire.

Trust, have faith.

Step out.

And live, then, there, on the edge,

And as if you were going to die tomorrow.

Throw yourself into life.

And, at the same time, paradoxically, study long and hard, day after day, as if you were going to live forever.

And remind yourself that …

Repetition is the key to success.

For practice makes perfect.

And:

If at first you don’t succeed, try, and try, again.

Fall seven times, and stand up eight.

And keep always in mind that even if you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start at any moment you choose, for this thing we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down.

And those things that hurt, instruct.

For some of the best lessons we ever learn, we learn from our mistakes and from our failures. The error of the past is the success and the wisdom of the future. In any case, a mistake may sometimes be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement.

In the words of Charles Franklin Kettering: “I could do nothing without my problems; they toughen my mind. In fact, I tell my assistants not to bring me their successes for they weaken me; but rather to bring me their problems, for they strengthen me”.

For a positive thinker does not refuse to recognize the negative, he refuses to dwell on it. Positive thinking is a form of thought that habitually looks for the best results from the worst conditions.

No failure, only feedback.

Keep in mind, then, the Buddhist sayings: “Expect nothing!” and “Suffer more!”

See it all as so much character building.

And say to yourself:

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we must walk over that path again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to guide our lives. Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.

I’ll keep going, then, with all my courage and strength and focus and determination.

I’ll keep on going; I’ll keep on going, stubbornly.

And that’s just fine.

And, in the same way that a crystal is not fragile, but fine, be fine, my friend.

For you are doing just fine.

And everything is fine, just fine.

All is well.

So let go, again; just keep on letting go, refining, going deeper, and deeper …

(As into a well, a sense of wellness).

And do not hold your breath, ever.

But breathe freely, now, and forever …

And I shall weave words from the winds; and with these words I shall give you wings to fly; and upon these wings I shall write, among other words, the words “peace” and “love”, “trust” and “courage”, “forgiveness” and “openness”, “understanding” and “energy”, “joy” and “bliss”, “confidence”, “take heart”, “be bold”, and “go”; and with these words, like wings, you shall fly around the world; and you shall love the feeling of freedom that the sensation of flying affords you; and you shall love to take wing, and to fly …

And, as if it were the sky itself, sounding you, surrounding you, listen now to the sound of this, your voice, my voice, saying:

The time is always now.

So know, now, that this, then, is the right moment, to begin … for …

It’s …

(Now)

The moment …

To breathe your body more deeply into a feeling of deep relaxation.

And:

A soft breeze …

As if moisture upon the air …

A deep breath …

And a drop in the ocean, of …

Inspiration –

The mind’s ability to do amazing things.

And a gateway to trance.

An arrival; an (en)trance; a beginning.

Breathing in …

The moving mind; and the mind, in motion.

And your mind, breathing out, may wish now to extend, to go out and beyond itself, and to wander, and to travel.

And that’s fine, too, for you have surely noticed, now, that your awareness mostly migrates always to here, and there, where you most need to place most of your attention most of your time.

AND HERE IS WHERE WE MEET

Let’s simply go, trust.
Let’s be open, free.
Let’s lose ourselves in love.
For when you need something, there it is.
And when you look for something, you find it.
And when you look for this or that person, some / one / special, you find them, too.
And when someone is looking for you, well, likewise, they find you, if not immediately, at once, then very, very soon.
For wherever you go, there you are.
And you are always present, saying:
Be Here Now.
So stranger, if you, passing, meet me, and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?
( … for the riddle that other people represent has occupied me all my life: and that’s to say, I find you interesting! But I am not expecting a simple answer from you; what I seek is a deepening of understanding, a shared humanity, a sense of communion).
And you, Stranger: are you not a sound in search of echo, or a call that seeks response, saying: come, let’s wonder about the world together; tell me about your world! Where is your earth, for example, your plot of land? And where, your roots? And what is your point of view? And from where have you come? From where do you hail? And how far have you travelled to be here now? And where are you, now, in fact? Where are you on your travels? And where next?
Or are you perhaps one who prefers not to know where you are going, simply enjoying the sensation of being a little lost, a little adrift, floating, swimming, in the river of life, and facing it, faceless, all faces, in motion, emotion, and movement itself, a mystery, travelling always towards the over there, beyond, and beyond even the I, am That, in ecstasy, a hum.
(Relax, then, into your face).
(Relax, then, into your face).
(Relax, then, into your face).
Asking: what is your name? What mine? How shall we say? And who are you, then? And who do you say that I am?
(Knowing that the most important thing is not so much what you call me – and the possibility that you might be mistaken, and getting my name quite wrong, like calling a wrong number; no, the important thing is simply that you call. So please, smile, say hello, establish contact, make a call, write a letter, be in touch, share a word, share a world …
And I am so happy that now our paths have crossed, for here is where we meet.
This day, this journey; and so many journeys, paths crossed, stories shared: a time to talk, break bread, sip tea; a time to keep silence; and a time to move on.
It’s been a pleasure to meet you.
(Thank you).
May you know great happiness, in love, and gratitude.
Until next time: bon voyage, my friend, fare well.

And say to yourself: …
I am so happy that now our paths have crossed.
Crossed paths, shared journeys.
So much to say, to tell.
To give, to receive.
To live, and to learn.

Looking up; looking forwards; looking out.

And just as the wave cannot exist for itself, but is ever a part of the heaving surface of the ocean, so must I never live my life for itself, but always in the experience of that which is going on around me, says Albert Schweitzer.

And Einstein: “A human being is a part of a whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest … a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

And Dostoevsky: “Love all God’s creation, both the whole and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of light. Love the animals, love the plants, love each separate thing. If thou love each thing thou wilt perceive the mystery of God in all … “

A rain of blessings.

And this night, then – this night – shall be for us a night of storytelling, and the heavens above, for a little while, our home, and the stars, our company.

And from here, or there, or wherever, floating freely, looking up, looking down, upon first a darkness, impenetrable, becoming slowly, gradually, the sound, whirling, like a breeze, a swirling mist, in the depths, vibrating, the voice, acting, refracting, like a light, so that, letting there be light, there is light, and this light, subtle, revealing to us, then, little by little, ourselves, to ourselves, so slowly, so subtly, at first, and as if we were floating upon an ocean, vast, and beautiful, of faces, so many faces, now faint, now clear, and human faces, so many, to see, and to see, the sea, sounding, seeing, listening, hearing, and feeling the humming voices, vibrating, and telling stories, so many stories, and what extraordinary, or simply ordinary, extraordinary, stories, and, indeed, vast, and beautiful, and boundless, they are, like an ocean, and each one a drop in a beautiful, boundless ocean, vast, and like an ocean of story, a sea of stories, to see, to hear, to tell.

And aren’t you going, then …

To see the sea?

To see the sea!

(The Far Horizon)

Imagine!

(For you have always known that imagination is more important than knowledge; fire your mind now; and let your imagination fly free).

And yet, how is it, then, that we

Journey

To wonder at

The might of the mountains

The surge of the seas

The roaming of the rivers

The awesome grandeur of the oceans

And the circling of the stars …

While at the same time we pass ourselves by without ever …

Wondering … ?

And from that thought, there, return, then, here, and now, to this time, and place, the earth …

Take your bearings.

Stretch out your arms, the horizontal line, stretching out towards the far horizon.

You are here, now.

At a crossroads, the beginning of a path, a way.

(And always the centre of things; the middle way).

That way, North. That way, East. That way, South. That way, West.

The Great North. The Far East. The Deep South. The Wild West.

Breathe deeply, stand up straight, walk tall.

Be vertical, stretch up, reach up.

Try to touch the sky: the heavens above.

And, suspended there, as you are, like a line between heaven and earth, vertical, and horizontal, both plumb the depths and soar up into the heights. Work on your poise, develop balance. And be at once earthed, and heavenly; human, and divine. Know yourself. To be, becoming.

And hold then this thought, like golden earth, in the palm of your hand.

And feel your roots, saying: let this thought be as our hearth.

(The base, or ground note, and the earth beneath our feet).

And let the fire burn bright.

Now.

Within.

Earth, Wind, Water, Air, Fire.

And please, gather around, for we’ll sit close together, now, this night, and for a while, at least, be warmed, by …

The sound, of the human voice, divine, saying …

Listen.

Whenever you feel inspired to do so, and, that’s to say, almost all the time, putting pen to paper, again and again, you write to me.

And what will you write?

That’s up to you.

Keeping only this in mind: hold everything dear.

And you shall begin, then, by writing:

To dear …

(Add names)

(Add words)

And be inspired, quite simply.

For your words, whatever you write, shall be wonderful, to me.

And your life, a life of words, true words.

(As in Shingon Buddhism)

Breath, rhythm, sound, and song.

And what fabulous adventures you shall speak of, then, describing them in wonderful detail, and adventures, that’s to say, seeking expression, in words, in language, in sound speech, and in the music of the heavens, the songs of the soul, and … sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not. And I tell you … then … that … here … in this place … sometimes …

… a thousand twanging instruments …

Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices, too
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked
I cried to dream again …

And knowing, then, that our minds, when dreaming near the dawn, are of the truth, and my thoughts, as the weaving …
… of a magical garment for my muse, of perfect workmanship.
For a goddess’s robe is seamless, woven entirely on the loom.
And the dream, the pattern, the story, always changing, unfolding …
To dream, a dream, of …

Well …

A holy well.

And an ink well … thinking …

… of words … wondrous words … welling up, warm, like tears … tears of the moist, muddy earth … fruit of mother nature … a fabulous abundance … a magical, fabulous flow … of wondrous words … and energy … each word, a seed, a thought, becoming … a necessity, a karma, a destiny, and a fate … my word … my wyrd … and words … being … weaving … spun … woven … a voice, first thin, like mist … then reverberating … breeze, stirring … my voice, looming out from the dark depths … from the very breath of the winds, divine, that have blown us here, together, now, in service to … what? … supposing, some animating principle, and the thin, spinning, sunbeam, thread, like golden flax, telling, the tapestry, of the tale, first found – and picked out – plucked from thin air – and then told – trouvere – troubadour – told, spun, woven – like tantra, texare, textiled – weather woven words, worn … into text, and weaving, into being … an image, a vision, a story … spun … of a writing of a world as yet to be, and calling out, obscurely, in world writing, mind – and sound, searching echo, in question, and in response …

… Kotodama …

(The land where the mysterious workings of language bring bliss).

My self, your self.

(Atman).

(All).

And you know full well, now, and always, that your very greatest adventures are interior, when perhaps on the outside not much appears to be happening, and there is only stillness, and silence, and on the inside, by contrast, all is in motion, in emotion, and the breath, animating the mind, that moves, dances, trances, and is being always the centre of a boundless knowledge, understanding, imagination, creativity, beauty, bliss, as here, and now.

To sound true.

And to hit always the right note.

For you have realized – haven’t you? – that our soul is composed of harmony, and this, the music, of life …

Twelve (or … goodness knows … how many?) tones, like the steps of a ladder, ascending to heaven …

To sound true.

And to hit always the right note.

And, that’s to say, to be in tune, to be in harmony: to be in tune, in harmony, with all the people around you, your community, and to be in tune, in harmony, with your environment, and to be in tune, in harmony, in accord, one single, multi-layered chord, with your own nature, and to be in tune, in harmony, then, as a natural consequence, with the world, and to be in tune, in harmony, too, with me, right now, this moment, listening to the sound of my voice, your voice, our voices, singing out, clearly, beautifully, and producing such a lovely, wonderful sound, and a sound that, takes us away with it, now, as into the most magnificent dream, and a sound creating sacred space, sound space, and a beautiful music to the ears, like singing, with angels, and the sound, moving, dancing, flying, soaring upwards, as if to heaven, and a paradise of bliss.

And reach out, then, make contact, feel free.

And be bold, in touch, and sound, in word, and deed.

And have no fear.

Take heart.

Brave heart.

Find your voice.

And sing.

Indeed, and above all, have confidence: forget about the rest of the world for a minute. Go within: for this is your true reality. Listen to the music of the mind, then dance to it, quite simply.

(And what I say may be perfectly true. It certainly sounds true.)

And this, according to Diogenes, is why philosophy is useful:
“If nothing else, to ensure that we are ready for any destiny.”
(And what a destiny!)

And you know that all human beings share the same basic wish to be happy and to avoid suffering.

So we are not so very different, at the end, you and I.

And, my friend, you have nothing to fear.

Be calm.

I give you inspiration, and encouragement.

And this, now: a meeting of minds.

(A community).

And I ask you, then:

Where should I look for you?

Where will I find you?

Where do you belong?

And I tell you:

I do not belong anywhere, in particular.

I belong everywhere.

And where do you happen to be living now, just now?

On the planet earth, mostly.

Oh yes?

Yes.

(But not always; for occasionally I have found myself somewhere that has seemed a little like a living hell; yet, I must say, fortunately, so very fortunately, and more and more often, indeed, I find myself in a kind of heaven on earth. A question, perhaps, of circumstance, and chance. A question, perhaps, of perspective, or attitude, or practice. Perhaps. Or perhaps not.).

And, in any case, truly, truly, truly, I aspire TO BE a citizen of the world, a citizen of the cosmos, a true cosmopolitan: a universal man, a universal woman, and all small parts in a far greater whole. For my intention is to make all feel familiar, so that wherever I am, and wherever I go in the world, I open my mind and allow myself all at once to feel everything around me as extraordinarily and beautifully familiar and intimate. So I call, then, not as if for the very first time; but rather, I re-call, little by little, remembering everything. And I say to myself: “Yes, I recognize this place and these people. It all feels so familiar. And in fact I feel completely at home here, as if I’ve been here always. And as if here I am among my family.”

Draw near, then, my friend, come close: make all feel familiar, and hold everything dear.

Asking: for what are you seeking?

What is it that really and truly you want?

And: is it useful? Does it work? And is your thinking sound? And are your thoughts in conformity with your reality? And is your world in harmony?

And, if so, with which, or whose, reality, is it in harmony?

Does it conform to the reality that you think that you see and understand? Or the reality of which you dream, and which you are inspired to create?

And remember, too, that, if at all possible – and all is possible – whenever you can – and that’s to say, at all times – always – you must call each thing by its true name. Adam, the ground, the earth. Be always honest: tell it as it is. And watch your tongue, then, watch your language, pay attention. For your words not only reflect the world, as it is – tell it – as it is – they also create the world. So always be sound, and true, and sound, always. And attend to your breath, and your ENERGY, and draw in your inspiration, and follow your genius, ETERNAL, to go with the flow, and to map out the wyrd songlines of your inner world, and to map out your mind, in DELIGHT, and, in making this, your world, in music, to sing out your soul’s joyful dreaming, in bliss.

And if you are looking for answers, first question, asking:

Why do you not simply look around you, again, and again, and each time more carefully, and more attentively, so as, in this way, to explore, a little more, our world, your world, this world – and yes, this world, your world, our world -right here, and now, as it is, or as it appears, at least, to be?

For you know that, although on your passport it says this, or that, in truth you are a Hyperborean. And the Hyperborean is engaged on an erratic path to a far-out something. What people see are the erratics, or the stones he leaves on his path, when what he sees are flashes of the far-out thing. So argues Kenneth White, at least. And I think perhaps he’s right; quite right, again.

So …

In a state, then, of expanding ecstasy, or far-outness, move first in the direction of, and towards, what you value, and then see if you can’t explore your limits still further, and expand yourself a little more, attempting to stretch outwards those limits and, in doing so, to develop, from within yourself, the courage simply to let go, and to let go of you, and to let go of yourself, so as simply to lose yourself, completely, and, surrendering yourself, completely, to come to be, that, being, completely, relaxed, and being completely open, and being completely, completed, as if in complete surrender, somehow, to selflessness, and selfless, freedom, from being, this, or that, and at once, being, then, as it were, incomplete, and at once, being, then, as it were, complete, and at once incomplete, and complete, in bliss.

(So Be Zen)

(No limits)

(No boundaries)

(No solutions)

(No names)

And then, in tranquillity, return to your centre, and be restored.

For your mind, then, is as a miniature world that at the same time somehow expands to contain all that you could ever consciously understand to be. Your body, by contrast, is very much in and of the world. Let go, then, of the need to understand, and to control; and nor need you look down, even, to test the ground of your next step; for only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find his right road. Let go, then, of all fear and trembling, doubt, and hesitation. Let go of everything, indeed. Be free.

And in your imagination you travel often, and easily, from north to south and from east to west, and from the northern to the southern hemisphere.

And likewise you move with ease between the left and the right hemispheres of your brain.

And your brain itself is like a miniature world and perhaps, to you, it is the only world that you shall ever know; and in your throat, stuck there, a testament not only to love, and to desire, but a testament, too, to your curiosity, a piece of Adam’s Apple; and your heart, too, wilful, independent, a law unto itself, a world apart and it, too, a little like a brain, a centre of feeling and emotion, intuition, and insight; and, lower in the body, the intestines, the stomach, the serpent of the knowledge of good and evil, the great power of the Kundalini; and, lower still, going down, you begin to lose your discrete sense of self; and you lose yourself in the joy, the delirium, of the body; and in the joy of sex, you lose yourself, completely.

And so whenever, losing yourself, you are feeling down, move your energy up, from the pit of the stomach to first the heart, and then the brain, and there find yourself again.

And just imagine that it’s the movies, and now MOVE!

(Lights! Camera! Action!)

(You look a million dollars, by the way; a real star!)

And move, from depression, to expression.

And express the thoughts that arise in the mind.

Reach out, and communicate – a meeting of minds.

And, in this way, see if you cannot make of your experience a storehouse for one, and all.

Make of it a story house; a story …

And, through this story, transform the maze, the labyrinth, of the mind, into a mandala.

And, rocking a little from right to left, from left to right, a very slow, circular motion, circling clockwise to turn inwards, anticlockwise to turn outwards, achieve balance, and harmony.

Allow yourself some space and time, some time, and space.

To get to know yourself a little better, and better.

And try, too, and then, always, to think honestly, and to speak truly, going always to the heart of what you wish to say; and above all try to be true to yourself. And have the courage of conviction in everything you do, in other words. And focus on the beautiful, the extraordinary, the exceptional. Or rather, learn to see the beautiful, the extraordinary, the exceptional, in everything, by approaching work, as life, in a spirit of abandon, of total abandon. And, trying to live each second as if your last, live your life well; just live it well, that’s all; your life, and up to you.

And do not be afraid to take a big step where one is indicated; after all, a significant result requires a large ambition. And, as David Lloyd George once observed, you cannot cross a chasm in two small jumps.

And follow “The Way” (call it the Tao, or Zen).

That’s to say, be open to the learning of all arts.

Be curious about all professions.

Know the difference between gain and loss.

Pay attention to your conscious awareness.

Pay attention to those things that are beyond consciousness.

Pay attention to the smallest details.

Yet concern yourself only with what is useful.

And move always towards what you value.

Focus on the beautiful, the extraordinary, the exceptional.

And know that whatever satisfies the soul, is truth.

And in such a way, from here on, and now, and always, you shall be resonant, vibrant, energetic.

And your voice shall sing out clearly, in love, and truth, and beauty.

And if life seems sometimes simply too complicated, remember, it needn’t be complicated, so keep it simple, saying to yourself:

Just direct your thoughts usefully.

One thought at a time.

One thing at a time.

One step at a time.

Always one, at a time.

All is one, at a time.

And what a time, of oneness.

That was.

It was, that …

All One.

Time.

And I am, then; still, somehow …

The truth.

To tell …

In numbers, numbingly … counting up, counting down … the clock, ticking … and counting the years, the months, the days, the hours, the minutes, the seconds … my life, your life, our life … and telling the time … of my life, your life, our life … and counting … on time … and counting … on you … being … always … on time … and counting … on you … being always … in time … in time … in right, close up, intimate, rhythm … beating … time … to …

One …

Two …

Three …

For like a migrating bird, you yourself simply know, and simply know where to go, and when to go, responding always to an inner voice, and responding always to an inner voice that calls out to you, that calls out your name, and to an inner voice that is, even now, calling out to you, in emotion, setting all in motion, in motion, emotion.

That voice, listening …

And your awareness, your mind, naturally migrates, then, towards those things that most require your attention, or simply to those things that are most important and most interesting to you.

And you just seem to know where to go, and when, and what to do to take care of yourself.

And you are totally at ease.

And you are doing just fine.

And an inner voice, an inner awareness, drawing your attention, setting you in motion, moves you, in emotion, towards a place, an inner space, a sanctuary, of quiet comfort, and effortless relaxation, and there to know, all of a sudden, just like that, that the time is right, for change. And to know, all of a sudden, just like that, the exact nature of the change that is needed. And to recognize that that feeling is an inner awareness, and a recognition that something needs to change, and that that something needs to change now, change now, now change.

For nothing really endures, but change: change is the only constant.

And in the words of William Arthur Ward:
The goal of life is to grow.
The nature of life is to change.
The challenge of life is to overcome.
The essence of life is to dare.
The beauty of life is to give.
The joy of life is to love.

And keep then clearly in mind, that:

To achieve change, think first to exchange.

And to move away from confusion, fuse with that which is there, and that which is true.

And make of yourself a useful sacrifice: surrender your mind to that which is now.

And to move away from depression, move towards expression.

Express yourself, then.

Be open, brave, and bold.

For thanks to change there is growth.

And deep change can only be brought about when first you choose to change yourself, so change yourself now; be the change you seek!

And you know that you can achieve that change.

You are your own boss.

You are the ruler of your world.

And you are yourself responsible for yourself.

So make it so.

Naturally, effortlessly.

For naturally you flow with that change.

For naturally you flow with change.

And naturally you flow, and change.

And naturally you flow easily, and grow easily, and change, knowing and understanding completely that all growth takes place through change, and naturally you flow easily, and grow easily, and change, knowing and understanding completely that all growth takes place, thanks to change …

And so you flow, and change, and are always in harmony, with nature.

And you flow, and change.

And you flow, with change.

And you flow and change with change.

And you become change.

And you are change.

And all, then, is change, and in constant motion.

A book of changes, life.

Change, exchange.

Give, and receive.

For energy is eternal delight.

And dance, then, wherever you may be – Dance! Dance! Dance! –  in deep delight, within, and without a doubt, and once and for all, forever, and a day, starting now.

And I am the Lord of the Dance, said He.

And this, my house, full of delight, in which the dancer, dances, and the songbird, sings …

Be bliss.

And transform, then – trance/form – your life.

-Always dancing!

And what a dance!-

Trance …

For this voice, your voice, our voice, my voice, and these words, your words, our words, my words, shall go with you, always.

So listen to this, this voice, your voice, our voice, my voice, and to these, these words, your words, our words, my words, with an open mind, and an open heart.

And be clear in your understanding.

For this NOW is the (En)trance to transition into trance/formation in transformation.

So, from now on, change your chances of success: take a chance on change.

And, to do so, first relax, then follow your nose, follow your gut feeling, and go with your feelings, go with your intuition, go with your emotions, follow your heart.

And be bold.

For fortune favours the bold, so they say.

And: no guts, no glory.

And so they say:

A game of …

Go!

Take a chance, let go.

Take a chance, go with the flow.

Take a chance on change.

All change.

So take a chance.

On chance.

Take a chance.

On me.

A chance …

On …

Chants, singing –

Chants, of a lifetime.

Om chants.

(En)trance.

Seeking …

… in trance …

A heart of gold, with which …

To love.

And says St Teresa of Avila:
“Remember: if you want to make progress on the path and ascend to places you have longed for, the important thing is not to think much but to love much, and so to do whatever best awakens you to love.”

To come in, be welcome.
To step out, fare well.
And simply to be; to be on your way …
As impermanent are all compound things.
With mindfulness, strive on.

And, can you imagine?

And once upon a time, everybody “knew” that the earth went around the sun, and that something heavier than air could not fly, and that to run a mile in less than four minutes was of course a physiological impossibility.

And so to refresh your view of the world, change the way you see things: twist the kaleidoscope around and around until the pattern that is taking shape before your eyes comes to please you.

Look out for a new perspective: if needs be, buy new glasses.

For change is the only constant.

And so try to be the change, then, if you can, that you seek.

And we can easily imagine how it might feel to know, without knowing, what needs to be done, and to be told, without anyone doing the telling, by an inner voice, an inner feeling, simply to do this now! And you can so easily also imagine, likewise, how it might feel to have actions flow from those feelings, responding naturally, effortlessly, to an inner awareness, an inner knowing, that tells you what to do and when and how to do it, and to be as if simply born with the knowledge, and to trust that feeling, and to be so comfortably aware of oneself that simply everything becomes naturally, and effortlessly, much easier; a knowledge, a decision, that is, that is part of each human and other being and that guides and directs intuitively towards those things needed, as if in a migration of thought, or awareness, that presents you with memories, ideas, understanding, for you, to use, for you, so that, even as you relax, your mind moves towards those things needed, and your unconscious provides that core awareness and understanding that you can use later on, if you wish, or right now, if you wish, and simply whatever feels right.

And, I ask you: why not use it now?

Why not do it now, right now, at once?

For a journey, after all, begins in the mind, in the imagination.

It begins as a movement, a merest breath, and faint breeze, of thought, an impulse, a stirring, or a curiosity, softly whispering, within the ear, that grows then, little by little, into a desire—something more, and something new—to experience, to learn, and to understand, in what is at once a calling, and a response, and a changing of the mind, a turning of the mind, in a placing of one’s attention, with focus, to here, and to there, until, little by little, these pathways of the mind, in the mind, forming, and sounding, the mind, begin to sound out something like a vocation, and a vocation, and a vocation, that is, which is a finding of a voice, and a path, and a direction, in the way of the inner life, and the spirit, that becomes then embodied in a starting out, a stepping out, from thought’s beating heart, into thought’s beating heart, beating heart’s life and, born from there, and then, comes as if a new reality, and a new journey, and a new day, and a new beginning …

For in the beginning was the Word.

And words come easily …

And inspiration, too, comes easily …

(Breathing in, breathing out).

And inspiration comes all the time … to me, whoever he  … or she … (s)he, s/he … hush … ! … might be …

For I am indeed an inspiration!

And indeed, I hold it in my hands, this word, this book, look: “INSPIRATION!”

Look, listen!

For, staring, at first silently, into the darkness, thoughts form, fresh, and glistening, silver, like the moon … through red, purple, blue, and white … upon the early morning dew, into words, sparkling silver, then gold, at the rising of the dawn’s new sun, in the blue ink, of the day’s new sky, bright light, and song, and your body, sounding, as if vibrating, then, to all the glorious colours … of a rainbow … at the end of which … you find … a heart-shaped pot … of gold … pure gold …

A heart of gold!

And all this but a breeze of thought floating out, flowing out, upon the breath, into word, and action.

And says Lao Tzu:
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

Your journey begins with an inspiration in the mind translated into an impulse to move.

And there is always a moment when someone must make the first move, and take the first step; and let that someone be you!

And your journey begins with your feet: so take the first step, my friend; just go!

Life itself, a journey.

And listen:

I travel not to go anywhere in particular but, put simply, simply to go. I travel for travel’s sake. For the great affair is to move. It’s how we’re programmed, and made.

And I travel, at the same time, if paradoxically, to …

Be here now.

To …

Be here now.

And now again, to go away!

And, for what it may be worth, try to be one of those people who try themselves to the limit by trying the limits and the extent of their ability and their potential.

And that’s to say: first clear your mind of all that is unhelpful and then go out of your way, get out of your way, and try to get out more, and look around you, and explore a bit, and discover the world.

And learn to hold your head up high; learn to sit up straight, and to stand up straight; bind fast, and tight, the rope of life; then learn to walk on it; just learn to walk upright upon the earth; then learn to run; learn to skip; learn to jump; learn to dance; learn to ride; learn to swim; learn to sail; learn to climb; and learn to fly.

Take a walk; jump on your bike; hitch a lift; saddle up; jump on a boat; ship passage; celebrate a holiday; fly away; and, failing all that, keep it simple, and just do as you’ve heard them all say so many times before you: simply walk it! On your bike, mate! Get lost! Be gone! Go!

(But please don’t take this the wrong way – take only the right way).

And to help you, keep clearly in mind the thought that energy begets energy. Have confidence, then: the path will become clearer to you with each step taken. In confidence, walk on.

And so I ask you: what is stopping you?

Nothing!

Okay, so …

So you must start from somewhere; agreed.

So let’s start from here, and begin.

And let’s begin right here, and now, immediately, at once, this very moment.

And recall the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga:

The Law of Pure Potentiality
(All is possible; anything can happen; all is to play for!)

The Law of Giving and Receiving.
(Circles of virtue)

The Law of Karma
(Cause and effect)

The Law of Least Effort
(Minimize effort and maximize effect)

The Law of Intention and Desire
(Know what you want; want it with all your heart and mind; articulate the thought, write it down; picture it so; then go for it; make it so!)

The Law of Detachment
(Think of your children … )

The Law of Dharma
(Know yourself. What is your purpose in life? What is your vocation? Who are you, finally?)

And recall, too, the Rules of Engagement:

Choose your territory.
Centre yourself.
Discard all unnecessary things.
Remember that the Breath of Life resides in your inspiration, so connect to a Higher Power.
Free yourself of your conscious thoughts.
Slow down time.
And then, and only then, engage.
(And may the Force be with you!)

And I say to you: be always enthusiastic, be passionate.

And also reflect consciously, and often, upon the qualities that you most admire in certain special people or animals or places or things, then reflect consciously upon those qualities, in and of themselves, and then consciously imitate those good examples, those models, those heroes, and heroines, then be the change you wish to see, be the change, and then, as it were, become your heroes, and your heroines, until at last you can be a hero or a heroine to yourself, the person you’ve always dreamt of being, your ideal self or, so to speak, the person you’ve always had in mind, from the very beginning, and the person you were meant to be.

And know, then, that from now on you shall be a mirror held up to the very best that you can be.

And, put simply, you shall be the very best person that you can possibly be.

The person you’ve always had in mind.

And everything about you shall be fit, and meet, fit, and strong.

And you shall always show great poise:

Standing up straight, looking straight ahead, standing tall, and walking tall, as if a giant.

And, standing firm, you are as solid as rock, and as unmovable as a mountain, when necessary.

And, with age, you’ll surely age into being as an old oak tree, as solid as can be.

Saying:
Look straight ahead
Go all the way
You can!

Observe, too, and hold, and respect, your body, as if it were a temple to life itself, as indeed it is.

And recall the Latin tag, “mens sana in corpore sano”, a healthy mind in a healthy body, or (to be) sound of mind and body.

The words are those of the Roman poet Juvenal, in Satire X:
It is to be prayed that the mind be sound in a sound body. Ask for a brave soul that lacks the fear of death, which places the length of life last among nature’s blessings, which is able to bear whatever kind of sufferings, does not know anger, lusts for nothing, and believes the hardships and savage labours of Hercules better than the satisfactions, feasts, and feather bed of an Eastern king.

And so you try always to eat simply and healthily.

You think lean.

You attend carefully to the needs of your body.

You listen carefully to what your body is telling you.

And you remain always in tune, in harmony, knowing that a positive frame of mind is half the battle.

So that you sound always …

True.

Sound in mind and body.

And fit, too, in mind, and body.

And you love resistance, for you love a challenge; indeed, you adore a challenge, for it is only under difficult and challenging circumstances that you can feel the full strength of your mind and body, spirit and purpose.

(So do not remain at home, safe and sound, but rather: go out into the world. Sit naked upon a mountaintop. Feel the wind in your hair. Let go!)

And so, whenever you can, you walk, and run, and leap, and skip, and dance, and jump …

And, even so, you know that your body has been sculpted using dust, earth, water, mud, clay, air, and breath. It is limited, defined, definite.

But no vessel shall ever be large enough to contain your mind: no attempt at definition will ever limit your mind’s scope, or diminish its mysteries, or exhaust its potential, and its power.

Know, then, that your mind is limitless.

And develop an intention towards perfection.

And this, then, the art of living well, named: “well-being”.

Says Lao-Tzu: “He who is open-eyed is open-minded. He who is open-minded is open-hearted. He who is open-hearted is kingly. He who is kingly is Godly. He who is Godly is useful. He who is useful is infinite. He who is infinite is immune. He who is immune is immortal.”

And I define my body in the following ways: relaxed, at ease, yet bursting with energy.

Listen, then, to the body, as it hums, vibrates, and resonates, sounding out this vessel of life breath, and making the soul, in turn, ring out, and sing.

And I am perfectly balanced, perfectly in tune, perfectly pitched.

I am in harmony with myself, with those around me, and with the universe as a whole.

(And this is “just” intonation).

(Sounding it out).

And think and reflect: be silent, for a moment, be still, sit still, sit up straight, or stand tall, then slowly, surely, extend yourself, stretch out, reach up, grow tall, and let the spirit soar, reach up to, and touch, the sky, then fly.

And I walk tall, like a giant.

Place a mountain in my way and I shall move it.

For my mind clears a path, finds a way …

And my mind, clears …

Keeping always a clear mind.

So that this mind, your mind, my mind, now, is crystal clear.

And it goes almost without saying: try not to let yourself down; try not to fall. But should you do so, don’t worry, for that, too, is normal. Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions. We learn by our mistakes. We learn from our mistakes. We learn by a process of trial and error. So that …

When I lose, at least I don’t lose the lesson.

And if you fall, say, for example, seven times, just make sure you stand up eight times. And when, inevitably, and from time to time, you find yourself unexpectedly on the floor, simply pause for a moment, enjoy the sensation, the moment, then rise again, pick yourself up, brush yourself down, then carry on, and on, and on …

For the flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful.

And things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.

And every cloud has a silver lining.

Have faith, then: a faith that allows you strength even to err, and to wander off the well-trodden paths, and to wander into the unknown … and there …

… there simply to go on, then, for as far as you can, and for as far as you possibly can.

And, possessing the patience of Job, never giving up …

And, like a happy Sisyphus …

Going on, and on, and on …

Going right to the end.

(And knowing, too, that if you fall into a ditch it will take you great effort to get yourself out again; far better to avoid the ditch in the first place, and to keep positive.)

Says Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an Angel, in apprehension how like a God: the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals.”

Man know thyself and thou shalt know the Universe.

“To thine one self be true; thou canst not then be false to any man.”

A truly Herculean task.

A life’s work.

And that’s okay, too, for you have a life, time, and you are doing just fine.

And simply relax now; and enjoy the journey; and go with the flow.

And from now on, as and when you need to do so, you will hear all that you need to hear.

And you will see all that you need to see.

For your unconscious will see all that it needs to see, and hear all that it needs to hear, and understand all that it needs to understand.

So see hear now.

And understand.

(Tune in, as it were, to your intuition).

And now you may open your eyes, now, here, and look up.

A light breeze, drifting through the mind.

And the mind, clearing.

Thoughts giving light.

Now.

To enlightenment.

A cloudless, clear blue sky.

Heavens above, earth below.

Asking: where are you?

Asking: who are you?

Asking: why?

Then saying to yourself: now open the hand of thought, and reveal the diamonds in the mind.

See; hear; understand; now …

And now …

BE the light.

And a voice, moving across the waters, calling out in the wilderness.

Words scattered, like seeds; seeds planted, to grow.

Relax.

And who can be muddy, and yet, settling, slowly, ever so slowly, become limpid, and clear?

Who can be at rest, and yet, stirring, come slowly to life?

Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?

And can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself?

The Master does not seek fulfilment; not seeking, not expecting, he is present, and welcomes all things.

(Still deeper paradox).

And be then an island unto yourself: a refuge to yourself and no other. Have the courage of your convictions. Show strength of purpose. Show character.

Know, too, that right and wrong are situational.

In the appropriate situation, nothing is wrong.

Without the appropriate situation, nothing is right.

What is right in one case is not what is right in another.

What is wrong in one case is not what is wrong in another.

Rules, in any case, are made to be broken: this itself is a deeper rule.

Say to yourself: “I know the rules but the rules do not know me.”

So let there be much method, too, in your seeming madness, saying:

“Good heavens, no, I don’t suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it!”

Live fast and furiously.

Work hard, play hard.

Be brave, be bold, take risks.

And be sure to break every barrier and taboo: break out of the box; break the mould.

And, above all, let go of all the norms: be enormous!

And know, too, that fear is the only darkness.

But when you do the thing you fear, the death of fear is immediately and at once certain and inevitable.

Kill the fear, at once.

And instead show strength of mind; show strength of purpose.

For fortune favours the bold.

And no guts, no glory.

Breathing in.

Inhalation.

And with it, inspiration.

Shugendo, the path of training and testing.

(Tuition, training, keen observation, study, practice, repetition, ongoing learning, and discipline; these build the bridge between goals and accomplishments).

And you, a yatri, a pilgrim soul, on a journey of pilgrimage, a yatra.

So turn your thoughts again, perhaps now to Budo, or to Shambhala, the Way of the Warrior, the Solar Warrior, perhaps practising Aikido, the Art of Peace, or Kinomichi, the Way of Energy, and I Ching, the Way of Change.

And it is said that the pen is mightier than the sword; a smart but weak scholar is nevertheless not ideal. And a strong but ignorant warrior is likewise not ideal. One must strive to be not only a scholar monk, or poet, but also and above all a warrior monk – a Sohei – and a warrior poet, combining strength and intelligence so as to wield well both pen and sword. Be both a gentle and a noble person wherever you find yourself: a person of culture, and learning; a person of strength, and speed; hard in body and purpose, subtle and gentle in mind and spirit; both a warrior, and a writer. Dedicate yourself totally, then, to the way of the pen and the sword; wield well both pen and sword.

And recall the words of The Wanderer.

“Therefore a man cannot call himself wise, before he has a share of years in the world. A wise man must be patient. He must never be too impulsive nor too hasty of speech, nor too weak a warrior nor too reckless, nor too fearful, nor too cheerful, nor too greedy for goods, nor ever too eager for boasts, before he sees clearly.”

And:
“A man must wait when he speaks oaths, until the proud-hearted one sees clearly whither the intent of his heart will turn.”

Listen.
A dancer, dances.
A singer, sings.
A writer, writes …
And you: what do you do? What is your field of work? Where do you till or plough the land? And what would you most like to do, if given the choice? And when, and where – and doing what – makes you feel that now, at last, you are really in your element? And what then will be your most meaningful contribution?
Ah, I see.
Your condition is hypergraphia, the overwhelming urge and need to write.
In that case, as you are a person who writes, a writer, practising a stream of Shodo, or calligraphy, literally “beauty writing”, meaning beautiful letters, or the art of writing beautifully, making your strokes dance, a choreography of beautiful words, spinning, singing, woven into text; penmanship, or the art of writing well; the way of writing, Bunbu Ryodo, the ideal of the warrior poet: a person educated, sophisticated, cultivated, cultured.

And breathing out now, once more: become only this awareness of exhalation, in contact, and feeling.

And follow your words, then, your WYRD, your writing out of the world.

And let’s also describe this as the art of conscious living, of living well, in the ways of the world, along the world’s way, where you practise yoga, or union.

For you put your shoulder to the wheel, and turn it.

And your attitude to Dharma parallels what ancient cultures called “warrior knowledge” – the knowledge that comes from developing skills in difficult situations – as opposed to “scribe knowledge” that people sitting in relative security and ease can set down in words. Of course, warriors need to use words in their training, but they view a text as authoritative only if its teachings are borne out in practice. The Canon itself encourages this attitude when it quotes the Buddha explaining that: “As for the teachings of which you may know, ‘These teachings lead to dispassion, not to passion; to being unfettered, not to being fettered; to divesting, not to accumulating; to modesty, not to self-aggrandizement; to aroused persistence, not to laziness; to being unburdensome, not to being burdensome’: You may definitely hold, ‘This is the Dharma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Teacher’s instruction.”

Thus the ultimate authority in judging a teaching is not whether the teaching can be found in a text. It lies in each person’s relentless honesty in putting the Dharma to the test and carefully monitoring the results.

Pilgrim soul.

Parivrajaka, Wandering Monk.

“For there is a pleasure in the pathless woods; there is a rupture on the lonely shore; there is society, where none intrudes; by the deep sea, and music its roar. I love not Man the less, but Nature more … “ (to quote Lord Byron).

And, so saying, seek silence, seclusion, stillness, emptiness – sunyata, tranquillity, peace.

Leave your cave, take a walk, go into the woods, go into the forest, and wander, freely, through the woods, and forests, and go on a journey into the mountains, the high places, the land of the gods, to dwell, in time, among them; Shugendo; Shugenja; Yamabushi, one who lies in the mountains; a hermit among the hills; a mountain monk, a mountain mind, a breath of the moon in the heart, and mountains of the moon in the mind, as gods.

And take now a deep breath, inhaling very, very deeply, to help you get there: breathe in deeply.

(A sound upon the air, in the breeze, whispering to you, like a mother; listen then to the wind, your mother.)

And, from being first an ascetic, be now an ecstatic.

Set yourself totally aside, and enjoy now an ecstatic freedom from yourself; and simply follow your bliss.

II.

And, at some point, somewhere, somehow, you arrive, somewhat breathless, as if for the first time, the very first time, perhaps—or perhaps not—asking:

Where, then, really, does the beginning, begin?

A vibration, a soft, gentle, humming, sound.

A stirring across the waters, in spirit.

A being, breathing, moving, thinking.

Calling, and recalling.

Life.

And you recall now the rules of engagement.

First, choose your territory.
Feel relaxed, and comfortable: centre yourself.
Discard all unnecessary things.
For the breath of life resides in your inspiration.
And connect, then, to a Higher Power.
Free yourself of all your conscious thoughts.
Slow down time.
And then, and only then, engage.

For, as you know perfectly well, an unexamined life is not worth living.

Aspire, then, always, to the highest place …

But to get there, look down; look down deeply within yourself; and believe in …

Blue.

The colour of lights, becoming: blue, blond, or yellow, gold, a flash of light and, blinding, shining out and, sometimes, also burning, bright, like a star.

Bright eyes, blazing forth.

As if enlightenment.

And a pavement of sapphire, the throne of God.

And now, in a second, you’ll see a flash of colour.

Blue.

 

And the sky mind coloured blue upon the breath; and the powerful ocean, breath blue, swirling, in the throat; and sky mind, voiced, in ocean blue …

 

(And remember that a person with a naturally blue aura is a person who is oriented towards the life of the spirit; such a person could be a social worker, a counsellor, a teacher, a psychologist, a philosopher, a writer, or a poet.)

 

Blue.

Blue pigments.

Azurite.

Ultramarine.

Cerulean blue.

Cobalt blue.

Prussian blue.

So many shades of blue.

 

And Blue – light and dark – the colour of the morning and the evening sky.

The colour of God’s glory.

And, meditating now on Blue, the language of the soul, in blue-throated mantra, singing out …

I sing …

To the Blue …

Blue sky.

 

And singing the Blues, for …

 

Pure.

Blue.

Blood.

In Bliss …

 

Saying:
Breathe in, inhale.
And breathe in deeply, through the nose.
And count to ten, hold for ten.
Breathe out slowly, through the mouth.
Exhale completely.
Wait a while.
Then repeat.

And, says Basho: “When we observe things calmly we notice that all things have their fulfilment.”

Relax, then; relax completely; and make yourself completely comfortable, now …

And if you want to close your eyes, well, that’s a good idea, why not, but, if not, well, that’s also okay, that’s fine, that too … and then you can simply listen quietly to the sound of this voice, your voice, my voice … and of course you’ll be aware, too, of all the other sounds going on around you … sounds from inside and outside the building … a concert of sound seeking silence … and that’s okay, too … as these sounds won’t disturb you … and in fact they are going to help you to relax, because every single sound you now hear … seeking silence … will now help you to relax … now … and because of all those sounds, the only sound you need now to think about … now … in silence … now … is the sound of this voice, your voice, my voice … and while now you listen to the sound, that sound … silence … of this, that voice, your voice, my voice … now simply allow yourself to be as comfortable and as lazy and as relaxed … now … as you could ever wish to be … and … now … I want you … in this silence … now … just to allow yourself to be simply as comfortable and as lazy and as relaxed now as you could ever wish to be … here … and … now … in silence …

Inhaling deeply, through the nose.

Exhaling completely, through the mouth.

Oxygen to the brain.

Good.

And now, as you simply relax, wherever you are standing, or sitting, or lying down, even, just try now to become a little more aware of your body … and to be aware now of your hands, wherever they rest … and perhaps noticing also the angle of your elbows … and perhaps sensing also the weight of your head … and now … that I say that … you know … listening to the sound of this voice, your voice, my voice … that … the sensation of weight that you are now experiencing may seem just ever so gently to increase … and ever so little … and ever so subtly … as you allow yourself to relax more and more now … and just becoming more and more aware now of your ankles and feet now, and wondering if they, too, will start to feel also heavy now, as you … relax … and thinking about your breathing now, for a few moments … and noticing that your breathing, too, is becoming slower, and steadier … and time, too, to feel … and time, too, to feeling, too, too slow … to time, too, feeling so, so slow … and your body, heavy … as now you become more and more relaxed … and relaxing more and more deeply … slowly … your breathing becoming ever deeper, ever slower … slow, and steady … until you are breathing now so slowly and deeply and steadily and evenly now … that it’s just as though you were pretending … to be … sound … asleep … and with your eyes gently closed … as you breathe so evenly, so steadily … and so slowly that now you could not even disturb so much as a feather placed immediately in front of your nose … as you breathe so easily, and so slowly, and so deeply, and so gently … and so that now you could not only not disturb even so much as a single filament of feather placed right here, in front of your nose, in front of you, but also …

And also … and also … and also listen now, very carefully, to the sound of that voice, this voice, your voice, my voice.

For I am going to tell you a story, beginning:

Once upon a time …

There was a king, a great and wonderful king.

Imagine him sitting in regal splendour upon his throne. And around him stand great columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honour. And then all of a sudden it pleases the king to raise a small feather from the ground. And, having raised it from the ground, he commands it, then, this feather, to fly. And the feather flies, not because of anything in itself but simply because the air bears it along. And thus am I …

I am a feather on the breath of God.

And like a feather, and like a bird’s feather, and like a bird, I fly.

I fly to wherever the winds wish to take me …

Into the unknown.

Into the Blue, Blue skies.

And into an infinite possibility, becoming tangible.

And into an infinite Blue, being bliss.

Blue skies.

In songs of the soul, sounded out, in bliss.

In bliss.

And now I’m going to ask you to concentrate again, for a few moments, on your breathing … and I wonder if you can imagine a very strange idea … a very strange idea indeed … I wonder if you can imagine that you can actually breathe … through your fingertips … just imagine the rather strange idea that you can actually breathe through your fingertips … imagine that you can feel the air moving into your hands … slowly, at first, very slowly … and then with just an ever so faint tingling sensation that you might feel on the back of your hands … or perhaps in your palms … and then just imagine that feeling moving slowly along your arms … through your elbows … and just imagine that comforting flow of air moving through your elbows and then into your upper arms … and then into your shoulders … and into both arms … and both shoulders … and then maybe finding again that faint tingling sensation … perhaps in your elbows or forearms this time … and then moving down through the body … and down into your legs … and through the thighs … and through the knees into your shins and calves … and then you might feel, again, that faint tingling sensation, just there, below your knees … and then down through your ankles and into your feet … and then out through the feet … and then … into … space … thin air …

And there you can find a great deal of calmness and easiness … there in that rather strange idea that you can breathe in through your fingers … that you can actually feel the air moving through your whole body … in one single, warming, comforting, powerful flow of energy … and because the air flows in one direction only … moving through your whole body in one single comforting flow … the calmness and relaxation that you breathe in … simply doesn’t get involved with the tensions and the anxieties that you now breathe away from yourself … so that with each breath you take … and with each word spoken, that you and I are speaking now … you find yourself becoming steadily more and more … relaxed … and even beginning now, perhaps, to notice more and more the weight of your head … and wondering if that weight might seem now gently to be increasing … ever so little … as you relax even more … and the weight of your feet on the floor … and as you begin to wonder if that weight, too, might not seem gently to be increasing now … even as you think about it … so that some people can find that … the sensation of total relaxation … that makes you feel as if you are actually beginning physically to sink gently through the chair or couch or bed … and the floor … and beginning physically to sink gently down … so that it seems almost as if you are enveloped … by the earth itself … and so that you are so relaxed now … and it’s such a good feeling … and it’s a feeling of such calmness and safety … of great calmness … and of great safety … and it’s a feeling that increases still more, even, with each and every breath that you take, and with each and every word that I speak … listening to the sound of this voice, your voice, my voice, that shall go with you, and accompany you, always, from the very depths, to the very limits, to the very extremities, of your physical being, your body, and also to the very ends of your breath, your spirit, and to the very ends of the earth, as you imagine it, in your mind … and all this, as you continue, then, to breathe in through your fingers … and, accepting all, now … so that … you are …simply allowing that powerful, comforting, warming, relaxing flow of air … to move through your whole body and then out through your feet, to the beyond, your body …

So that this, too, is something that you can do for yourself whenever you wish … simply settling yourself into a comfortable position … with your eyes closed … then simply imagining yourself breathing in through your fingers … and imagining that flow of air comforting and relaxing every part of your body … and then breathing that air out through your feet now … so that each time you breathe out you just say to yourself: “Relax … now … “ … ONE … just saying TWO yourself: “Relax … now … “ … “Relax … now … “ … “Relax … now … “ … for you are THREE … and with each ONE breath, Blue, you breathe … you will find that this, TWO, will act as a trigger to your unconscious mind … so that when you feel FREE you say it … Blue … Bliss … and then the fourth time … you listen to me, always, with your unconscious mind … Blue … and then again … this voice, your voice, my voice … going with you … Blue … Bliss … and then each subsequent time … you shall find yourself … and you shall find your voice … in repeating, and hearing, the word … BLUE … and “Relax … now … Blue” … so that now you’ll find yourself to be then more and more relaxed … and more and more relaxed … than you’ve ever been before … and more and more relaxed … than you could ever wish for, even … and then more and more relaxed … than you could ever, ever have dreamed were possible … and then more and more relaxed … than you could ever have dreamed, even … while dreaming a dream … once in a while … mindful … of your breath … of … look, listen … while the owls, calling out to you, our soul, your soul, my soul, to climb, now, a ladder … a ladder up to the milky, breathless, beauty of the beautiful blue, blue moon … and the moon, floating, dreamily, in the night sky … and your thoughts floating, dreamily … beautifully … drifting by, like dreams … bright stars, shining bright … and whole oceans, and seas, ebbing and flowing … winds blowing … trees swaying … humming … whispering … murmuring … chanting … singing … and dreaming a dream … of the telling of a tale … of a story that always serves you … of a poem, a parable, a fable, a story, a saga, or a song … and going on and on now … into myth, legend, dream … and so that, now dreaming, a dream … of once, in a while … that is … woven, from sights, then, seen, and sounds … so beautifully … and like a story, threaded together, in silk … and opening up, then, before you, like a path … this dream … and what a dream … it is … of something … as extraordinary … and as magnificent, surely … as your very own path, a yellow brick road all paved in gold … or as something so delicate, beautiful, magnificent, wonderful … as a thread, of silky silence … a breath, of air … and an inspiration, no more … a gentle sigh of a story … so that you find yourself, asking … can I walk this path as if it were not now made of gold so much as rice paper, and leaving there no impression, no footprint? … for this, surely, is the level of lightness, and sensitivity, and acuity, and intelligence, and respect … and love … that is asked of me … now … for my path shall be woven finely, as if from silk … and myself, like a feather, or a gesture, a beau geste, a movement, a step, floating as if just above it, or across it, my path, and each step at once firm, and subtle, falling softly, gently, down … and stepping out … upon the clouds … and walking behind the sky … as in a dream … upon a path … opening up more clearly … with each step taken … of … pure … woven … silk … and that path becoming, now, as if the Silk Road itself … and as if a path simply opens up now across the river from the Taj Mahal … or else the sun at dawn … and my … inner … I … open … at last … to crossing countries, and continents … and moving always, and always, moving, on … always travelling … in a restlessness that surely has its roots in some insatiable curiosity, some searching intelligence, some soulful longing … and then openness … in shared story, shared history … and, as it were, a  collective history, or remembering … so that this then is you … wanderer … vagabond … traveller … troubadour … musician … philosopher … dreamer … poet … lover … storyteller … writer … all these things, and more … and a person, too, of course, who needs sometimes some rest … and from rest, to drift into a deep, deep slumber … and from there, to sleep … and in sleep, perchance, to dream … for you, my friend, are a dreamer of such splendid, and wonderful, dreams, magnificent … as now … such that … trusting your dream … again you cross India … a young spirit-guide, for company … and your child, holding your hand … chanting, softly … a mantra … to India … and to the land of your dreaming childhood … to jade monkeys … to ivory miniatures … to indigo blue incense … bathing sanctuaries of the soul … and walking on, then, eight miles more … more or less … and then again … and again … across the Himalaya … and again, and again, until a mountain pass … that is … Nepal … Tibet … Mongolia … and to the sights, and the sounds … and to the winds, and bamboos … a game … Mah-Jongg … sipping tea, with friends … of China … and a seeming vast, infinite, eternal … and an almost, but not quite … going on … and going on, then … going on, and on … for you know full well, my friend, that a seasoned traveller has no fixed plans … and, effortlessly letting go, in that free-floating space … forgetting, almost, where you are … who you are … as, listening, to this voice, your voice, my voice … and, opening your eyes, opening your mind … a game of Go … to … Sakura … and the cherry blossom, so exquisitely beautiful, of Japan, in spring … and to the sound of the Shakuhachi … and to the murmuring of the mountain stream … and to life … and change … and a gentle breeze, blowing through your hair … and the wind, in the pines … and the temple bell … ringing … in the empty sky … and as a crane dips its beak in snow … so do I … so do I … so do I … do I … weeping … take ink … to write … these words … these words … upon a page … and so many, many words … upon a page … and with them, Albion, to dream a dream in which … to fly … and to fly far, far away … on a route … from roots … in Britain … to France, Germany, Italy, and Spain … and into the heart … the heart … of Europe … western Europe … eastern Europe … and on, to Russia … to Turkey … to Africa … and the Middle East … perhaps … and to cross, somehow, someday, some way, and ask not why—or ask, rather, why not?—an Empty Quarter … where the camel floats across the slipping sands like a ship upon the sea … searching shade from the sun … and someone … somewhere … there … so that, later, at last, some company … in the shape of a woman, perhaps, walking at the limit of my vision, at the far horizon … distant … and beautiful … like a dream … and shimmering, as if a mirage … inviting, sensual, seductive … and Sahara, I shall name her … the journey, herself … searching shade, from the sun … the warm, dusty sun … bright, almost too bright, upon the sand dunes … and some shelter, perhaps, from the heat of the day, the chill of the night … and some other voice, perhaps, too … and stories, shared … and the skin, seeking moisture, rain … earth, mud, clay … so come, then, if you will … robe me in your majestic beauty … and love me … ephemeral, like a dream, as you are … and as if you never were, indeed … although your plump lips, now, for now so vivid, so real, and opening to speak with us, together, of flesh, and blood, as one … and to share with us the stories those lips have kept untold … upon lips no longer parched, but wet … and the water, refreshing … and the taste of fruit … like a woman, so soft, so warm, so generous, in my arms … and Sahara, I shall name her … the journey … to Africa … here, and now … although really she is Pegah, the dawn, in Iran, or so it seems to me, now … and now onwards, in dreaming, India … travelling on, and onwards … in dreaming … to Asia, for Asia, I shall name her, then … and … prey to all sensation, I shall be … a slave, most willingly, to life’s most marvellous abundance … for you know that mine is a world of infinite abundance … and beauty … and inspiration … and so take me, I tell you … take me up! … take me in your arms! … take me away! … and scratch me, cut me, rip me … tear me apart, indeed … show no mercy upon me … break my heart! … and how sharp, then, how rude, at times how bitter, is this experience … now … to strike! … like a cat, a mouse … like a tiger, its prey … and like a tiger, leaping, into the air … and like the imagination, leaping, into … and like your beating heart, racing, jumping, leaping … panting … for air … and your thoughts, becoming as birds, taking wing … and then flying, at last … and flying, flying free, completely free … to Australia, then … and New Zealand … to South America … and to Central America … and the Caribbean … and to North America … through Mexico, the United States, Canada … and Alaska … and Greenland … and on to the still farther North … and to the idea … only the idea … of the North … like a dream, a most marvellous dream … North, East, South, West … and, accepting no limits, no boundaries, no barriers … and knowing no frontiers … are you … also … and again … there … and there you are, again … the dreamer … the eternal dreamer … listening always to the sound of your beating heart … and dancing to the flow, the rhythm, of your blood, your beating heart … and dancing, always, to the flow, the rhythm, the circadian rhythms, of your blood, your beating heart, your body, your spirit, your soul, your mind, your awareness, your consciousness … and dancing, then, always, always, always, to your awareness, your consciousness, of time, the seasons, and nature, the day, and the night, the sun, and the moon … and the eternal movement … and flow … of energy … and emotion … moving, migrating, humming, vibrating … and dancing, always … always, always dancing … if dancing perhaps to another drum, a different drum, another music, a different music … and then listen … and listen carefully … only listen … and the rhythm, then, of your dreaming heartbeat … and the music, of your mind … and the sights, scents, and sounds … and now the noise and the bustle … now the peace … the tranquillity … of the pilgrim soul, singing quietly … to the Blue Mountain … sun-drenched, beautiful … where you sit, still … as Marco Polo … upon a lapis throne … by the river … Oxus … and the mind, marvellous … to sit with me, still … here, and now … by this still, blue, mountain, lake … so deep below the sky so high above … a beautiful, blissful blue … and there to dream a dream … or to dream a dream of a dream of a dream … so marvellous … the mind … like a film … or films … in a cinema that shows all that you have ever lived through or known, again, and again, every thought, sensation, experience … such that, so many films … floating through the mind, across the sea of memory … Ukiyo-e … and all these pictures, of a floating world … and thoughts, like clouds, themselves, floating, floating as if across an otherwise cloudless blue, blue sky … and with all these pictures, images, sensations, thoughts, memories … floating … like a dream … or dreams … I hear a caravan … and this caravan, approaching … to the sound of dogs, barking … and the blue canvases, fluttering, in the wind … and the blue people, departing … from over the sea … in ultramarine … and to collect, there, here, and now … the lapis … the dreaming lapis, with its flecks of gold … from which comes again the dream of a compass, and the points on a compass, and of a direction … looking always, again, to the farthest horizon … and knowing that a journey does not need reasons … always … but simply a breath of wind, and an inspiration, or a whim … call it what you will … and simply an idea, often … can be enough … and more than enough … an invitation, a bidding, a voice, calling out to you, a vocation … and so listen, first … and listen carefully … and only listen, then … and trust … your instinct … and then … sounding the strong voice, to sing, and to sing out, loud, and clear … to go! … as go! … just go! … and answering always yes, and yes, and yes! … in day after day … and journey upon journey … the road making, and unmaking you … all the time … and your path, unfolding … until the journey itself, reason enough … for disembarking … again … and setting off … again … and again … and again … and again … and again … and starting again, then, going on … and travelling far, far away … to the stars, the moon, the sun … saying, follow me, my friend, to the East, or to the West … and let’s walk together, for a while, at least … let’s travel … East … or West … and … into … then … the …

Blue.

Blue.

Ocean … blue …

Blue skies.

And Blue Bottles, buzzing … lazy, summer days … a sky blue butterfly, swaying on a cornflower … lost … in the warmth of the blue heat haze … singing the blues … quietly and slowly … softly, sweetly … blue of my heart … blue of my dreams … and delight, such delight … of slow blue love … in these delphinium days …

(And this, too, as if a love letter, my love, to Derek, master poet, and artist, and lover, dear Derek Jarman).

(But now the time has come, as the Walrus said, to talk of many things: of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages – and kings – and of why the sea is boiling hot – and whether pigs have wings.)

And let’s now go down, then, shall we, into the deep magic; and simply follow, please, your instinct, and listen closely, and listen well.

And listen, then.

Now.

Just listen.

La philosophie – dit-il – c’est en fait le mal du pays, c’est le besoin de se sentir partout chez soi. N’est-ce pas ?

And so :

You allow yourself, here, and now, to relax, ever more, and more …

And more and more and more and more and more … deeply … and more deeply still …

Ever more.

Forever more.

Going ever deeper, and deeper, and then deeper, and deeper, still: deep magic.

And listen.

You are a brave person: a person of heart.

And strong and brave, you are; brave heart.

Be open, then; relaxed.

Learn to listen, simply.

And simply learn.

For you are here to learn.

As you know, full well, saying:

Yes.

I am.

Here.

To learn.

To learn, to know, and to understand, full well.

Indeed, I live to learn; and I learn to live well.

Full.

Well.

For life is one long learning opportunity, isn’t it?

(So they say!)

And we come in time to learn, to know, to understand, that there is so much, still, to understand, and so much, still, not quite yet, fully, understood, but still, to understand, as you come to know, I come to know, we come to know, through learning, at long last, full well.

Develop, then, an intention towards perfection: be a polyglot and a polymath.

And indeed, so subtle could be your understanding, now, that I ask you:

Can you perhaps not sense … now … the beating of your heart? … sensing the beating of your own heart … and just seeing whether you can use the power of your mind to slow that heartbeat down … just a touch … just ever so slightly … and just seeing whether you can use the power of your mind to slow that heartbeat down just a little … ever so little … so that you can then feel your whole body slowing down … and becoming lazier and lazier … and more and more relaxed … because in any case you’ve got absolutely nothing whatsoever to do now except to relax … nobody wanting anything, nobody expecting anything … so that you can allow your whole body to continue to relax now, and your heartbeat to become steadier and easier until it’s just ticking over … like a well-oiled machine … or like a clock … now … just ticking over … smoothly … easily … quietly … calmly … comfortably … so that you can become gradually more aware of your whole self … and so become aware, once more, of your hands and arms, just sensing how they are now … aware of your legs and feet, too … again just sensing how relaxed they might be now, and wondering if it’s possible to relax them even more … and to be so in touch with yourself that you can actually get your whole body to relax even more … and yet remaining totally alert … and noticing now how even your face muscles can begin really to relax … relaxing and letting go of the tensions that were there, almost, but not quite, completely unnoticed … and just being vaguely aware of the skin and the muscles of your face settling … and smoothing out now … and such a good feeling … and wondering just how long all that tension had been there … and where it had all come from in the first place … and then realizing that you simply couldn’t care less … because you can feel it draining away from you now … all that tension … and that feels good … and as you continue to sense the beating of your heart and the absolute steadiness of your body’s rhythm … you wonder at the fact that you are so absolutely relaxed and comfortable that you simply can’t be bothered even to try … allowing yourself just to be … relaxed … and relaxing even more now … and to become now as lazy and as relaxed as anyone could ever wish to be … and yet even so, I wonder, still … if you can just about manage to relax still more, and even more now … even though you are already as relaxed as it is possible for most people ever to be … and just finding the last traces of tension in your body and simply letting them go … with each easy, gentle breath, you breathe … allowing every muscle … every fibre … every cell of your entire body … to be as beautifully relaxed as anyone could ever wish to be …

And I shall tell you a story.

Imagine … you are in a beautiful garden … with lush, manicured lawns … and beautiful, exotic plants … and the sun is shining … and there is a cool breeze … and the temperature is just as you would wish it to be … and the air is pure and fresh … and as you marvel at the vivid colours all around you … and as you hear the relaxing sounds of birds singing overhead …

You take a deep breath.

And as you breathe out you relax still deeper, and deeper … ever deeper, and deeper …

And as you stroll around this magnificent, beautiful, garden … feeling the soft grass underfoot … you wander towards some flowers … and they are so beautiful, these flowers … and as you approach them … the scent of these beautiful flowers grows to be more fragrant than anything that you have ever experienced … and the rich colours brighter than any you have ever seen … and again you take a deep breath … and inhale the soft, warm, and perfumed air … and as you breathe out you relax … ever deeper, and deeper … and as you continue on your way … you come to a pretty winding pathway that leads you down to a beach … and as you wander along … relaxing deeper, and deeper, with every step … you soon reach the beach … which boasts mile upon mile of golden sand … and as you slip off your shoes and stroll across the soft sand … the sensation of soft, warm sand between your toes, beneath your feet … as you gaze out into the distance … and see the vastness of the sea … and you watch as the waves roll up towards the beach … in a never-ending sequence … one upon another … and you hear the sound of the waves building up … and then petering out as they near the shore … tides in … tides out … and well, then, now …

And you feel, too, a growing feeling of peace and calm … enjoying a deep feeling of peace and calm … as the warm sea air blows lightly upon your skin … and as your feet sink into the sand with every step … so that with each step you relax ever deeper, and ever deeper, and deeper, still  …

And soon you reach the wet sand at the very edge of the shore … and you notice how much louder the sea is, up close … as wave upon wave of ocean rolls towards you …

And your feet are now sinking deeper down than ever before … into the wet sand … and then … when you reach the sea … you gently let your toes test the water … which is slightly cold at first … but soon seems warmer as you take a few more steps … and as you allow the waves to roll over your feet and ankles … and then retreat again … and as you breathe in the fresh, salt, sea air … and relax again … ever deeper, and deeper …

And as you gaze out at the calm blue sea … you see the waves lapping lazily around you … and you hear the sound of the seagulls high up above you … and you notice a fishing boat … gently bobbing, up, and down … and with its white sail, rippling, like golden sunlight, ever so little, upon the waters … and the sun, shining brightly … and the sky, a clear, clear blue … and there’s not a cloud in the sky … and all is vivid, and bright … and at the same time you feel more and more relaxed … with not a care in the world … at this moment in time … so that again you breathe in … and you take a deep breath … once again … slowly, deeply … and then … as you breathe out … you relax still more deeply, more deeply, and then, more deeply, still… relaxing … now … and going to sleep … into a deep, deep sleep … relaxing, now … into a deep, deep, deep sleep … a sleep deeper, and deeper, than ever, before … and I shall tell you again a story—relaxing, now … sogni d’oro—of a deep, deep sleep, so that … now … finally … you may …

Relax.

Relax.

Relax.

And listen.

For you feel so well.

And you are doing just fine.

And everything’s just great …

Now.

So that you can step down, calmly, and confidently, into the depths of your dream.

And it’s like sleep, almost; only deeper, more profound; a trance.

And your eyes are closed now.

Dropping deeper, and deeper, down.

And it’s as if now you were counting down a set of steps.

Into the Blue.

And the Sea.

Washing in.

Washing out.

And letting all again go, as you count with me:

TEN – floating gently deeper and deeper down.

NINE – deeper, still deeper.

EIGHT – letting go of all doubts, now, all worries, and anxieties.

SEVEN – deeper, and deeper, relaxed.

SIX – and the longer you need to concentrate on relaxing, the deeper you go.

Now pause for a moment, take it easy; take FIVE …

FOUR you feel so well.

And you are doing just fine.

Stepping down.

Relaxing more and more deeply, more and more completely.

And relaxing and going ever deeper, to be …

FREE – letting go, going deeper.

And on TWO – still deeper, and deeper still.

As ONE – well … and … you are completely and utterly relaxed now, my friend.

And you feel so well.

And you are doing just fine.

And perhaps you are not now – yes – in a state of trance, now, are you not?

Or perhaps you are.

And indeed, you are so deeply in a state of trance that it may seem to you as if you are a body-less-mind, and as if your mind were floating in space, free of your body, floating in space, and floating in time, almost as if you were flying, and free.

And now I want you to think about some time, in the past, when you were just a child. And my voice will go with you. And my voice may also transform itself into that of your parents, your neighbours, your friends, your schoolmates, your playmates, your teachers. And I want you to find yourself sitting at school, daydreaming a little, perhaps, the dust dancing in the sunbeams, listening to the birdsong, seeing the sun in the swaying trees, a light, fresh breeze, a beautiful, clear, blue, sky, and feeling very happy about something, something that happened a long, long time ago, and that you forgot, or that you had thought that you had forgotten, a long, long time ago. And tell me, now, again, a story …

Tell me your story, my friend.

For this is your life.

This is the story of your life.

And you, its author.

That’s right.

Yes.

But to begin with, just take, please, this one, single, memory, in which, let’s imagine, you are sitting, for example, on a swing, in a garden, perhaps, or in a park, swinging back, and forth, back, and forth, back, and forth, and singing … singing for joy, from sheer joy … and singing out to the great vaulting sky above your head … singing out to the sky … the sky blue … and … the colour … blue … of …

Bliss.

Blue.

And so, simply from the sheer joy of being alive, you sing!

And turn, too, to the child within, saying:

Lost boy, lost girl.

Come: follow.

And look here, then there.

Open your eyes, my dear sunshine, and see.

And when he opens his eyes and sees the light …
You make him cry out, in delight, saying:
O Blue, come forth
O Blue, arise
O Blue, ascend
O Blue, come in.

And look here …

Then …

NOW …

For your mind, now resonating, vibrating, is awash, with colour, like a rainbow … red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, white … awash with colour … and the colour … red … blood … red … vibrations … impulses … nerve-endings … and the mind … as if a theatre of … extraordinary … possibility … a theatre … of ideas …

And, “try to join the dots”, says your mother, “then colour in the picture … .”

And …

As you do so, bear in mind, then, as the great Epictetus reminds us, that it is not the things in themselves that may be troubling, but rather the opinions that we hold about those things. So remember, it is your mind that colours your thoughts … that colours them in … and that’s okay, too, for you are doing just fine … and as you colour your mind, your feelings … and as you control your mind, your feelings … and as you feel so well … not minding … and as you’re in control … completely in control, even in stressful situations … and as you’re in complete control of your thoughts and feelings … so too do you create your own reality … as something so good, so rich, so colourful, so extraordinary, so beautiful, so vivid, so real …

… and so red, too … orange, and yellow, and green … violet, and blue …white, and black … colouring me … (IN) … tensity …

NOW.

So that, from now on, what you think, you create

And what you feel, you attract

And what you imagine, you become

Always.

And what I say to you, then, is this:

Don’t recall – let go of what has passed;
Don’t imagine – let go of what may come;
Don’t think – let go of what is happening now;
Don’t examine – don’t try to figure anything out;
Don’t control – don’t try to make anything happen;
Just rest – relax – and be as you are ­– here, and now …

Awake.

And I want you to draw these affirmations deeply inside you, repeating the words with real feeling and a total conviction. And imagine, then, every part of you, your mind and body, resonating with the power of the affirmation, and repeating each affirmation with complete belief … for belief itself is very powerful … and thoughts, themselves, are very powerful … and your mind, too, is very powerful … for the thoughts we manifest in our minds – what we picture in the theatre of our mind – will become our reality. And so imagine every part of you repeating the affirmations with complete conviction, as though they were already your reality … or rather, as though already … they are your reality … right NOW.

III.

And so you say to yourself, repeating after me:

I alone am responsible for my destiny now. I am in charge of my life. I am in control of my life. I am the boss. And I feel secure in that knowledge. And I feel secure in myself. For I have complete confidence in my own abilities. And nothing and no one can hold me back.

And with this thought, floating free, unaware of my body, I am deeply relaxed.

And my mind is a place of inner calm, inner harmony, quiet stillness, great depth.

And I breathe slowly and deeply: breathing in new, vibrant, joyful energy; breathing out old, heavy, stale energy.

And I feel both very connected to the earth below me, very grounded, and as light as a feather, floating free.

And my nerves are strong and steady.

And I possess great inner strength and power.

And I am centred, balanced: completely in control of my thoughts and feelings.

And all the time, deeply relaxed, I am letting go …

And I easily let go of any and all ego-driven behaviour.

And in the same way I never allow myself to dwell on a negative thought.

Rather, I see difficulties as obstacles to be overcome.

I see problems as challenges.

And, in any case, I never allow problems to hold me back.

And I forgive myself for my mistakes, seeing them as lessons in life.

And I learn from my mistakes.

And I always keep going on; I always keep on going.

And I completely understand – I understand perfectly well – that the game is never over, until it’s over …

And, for this reason …

Instinctively, I move away from people and things that drain my energy.

And, instinctively, I move away from any negative struggle, and conflict; I avoid all struggle and strife.

And I have absolutely no time in my life for quibbling and “nit-picking”, for trivialities, pettiness, small-mindedness, mean-spiritedness, unkindness, jealousy, rivalry, bigotry, prejudice, arrogance, ignorance, and stupidity.

And I try immediately let go of any ego-driven behaviour that I encounter on the way …

Indeed, it washes over me like water off a duck’s back.

And I cultivate detachment.

So that things that once bothered me no longer matter.

And I have an amazing ability to rise above anything trivial and mundane.

And in this way it’s as if I am entering in each moment of life still more easily and effortlessly into a new life of calmness and serenity.

And I know that I deserve to be happy and successful in every part of my life.

And I know that I deserve all the good and wonderful things that life has to offer.

And for these reasons I accept only the positive.

And I see and hear only the positive.

And I am enjoying the present moment.

Indeed, I am always and easily enjoying the present moment.

I enjoy the moment.

And I am always enjoying – and making the very best of – now.

And wherever I am, it is always here … and now …

Be here now.

Be present.

(And life, a gift).

And in this way I cultivate a deep sanctuary of inner calm.

So that quite naturally and spontaneously I enjoy at all times a feeling of deep inner peace and calm.

And this feeling of profound inner peace and calm – quiet joy – is with me at all times, so that I breathe in deeply of peace and tranquillity; and I bathe in feelings of peace and calm.

And I find it easy, too, to love and feel compassion, for I am a loving and compassionate person: I feel love and compassion for all living things. And I love deeply and passionately, completely and utterly, with my entire being. For I am full of love and compassion; I am love, and compassion. And indeed, I regularly lose myself in love. And for this reason I pray to resonate with a powerful, positive energy, humming at a high level of consciousness. And when I need to be, I am electric. And when I need to be, I am magnetic. And how extraordinary it is, always raising the vibration, to become, as it were, a little more illuminated, and aware, as I realize now, and anew, each moment, as if there were simply so much positive energy inside me now. And I express my positive energy in so many creative and exciting ways. And I love to make positive changes in my life. And my relationships, therefore, are overwhelmingly loving and harmonious. And everything in my life is harmonious and in balance. For what goes around, comes around. And I create so much love and abundance in my life. And I experience so much love and abundance in my life. For I give and receive love easily. And I love to make positive changes. And I draw positive energy easily into my body. And I give out positive energy easily from my body. And my sexual energy – one aspect of my enormous joy and delight in life – delighting in all the beauty I see around me – wildly, freely, gleefully, playfully, spontaneously, creatively – possesses such creative potential, and quiet strength, and force, and power. But it is also balanced and, where appropriate, contained, and always earthed, in any case, in thoughts of love, and kindness, compassion, honesty, harmony, and tenderness. For I enjoy a balanced sexual energy and all my relationships are for this reason, on balance, harmonious.

My tongue, too, is likewise contained. Silence, I know, is golden – whereas speaking, as they say, is for beggars. I do not speak without good reason. And in this way I feel always calm and forgiving. For I accept myself completely. And I accept others, too, and completely, for who they are. And what good fortune, and what great blessing.

And so it is that I move easily and effortlessly through life, living life in a spirit of fluidity, and of flexibility, and coping easily and philosophically with life’s natural ebb and flow, life’s normal ups and downs, and acting always with great strength and presence of mind, being always calm and composed, and in this way deriving such great pleasure and satisfaction from my journey, and also enjoying always my journey, every single step of the way, and feeling so good now, so positive.

For I am still; I am serene; I am happy; I am positive. And I enjoy a wonderful feeling of freedom, a deep feeling of inner peace. And I spontaneously experience wonderful feelings of joy and happiness. And I enjoy every second of every single day. And I feel inspired and motivated to live my life to the full, full of passion, and enthusiasm, and with so much zest and chutzpah, and with such great courage, and confidence. And I live my life in a way which is always fulfilling and rewarding. And I live my life full on, with great courage and confidence, passion, and enthusiasm.

This keeps my spirit young, too. And, says Helen Keller: “One should never count the years – one should count one’s interests. I have kept young trying never to lose my childhood sense of wonderment.”

And, as Charles Kingsley noted, we act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all we really need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about. And I am enthusiastic about almost everything!

And in such ways I live my life completely free of fear; for facing my fears frees me from them. And so I go forward into my future free of fear, and take on new challenges with a fearless attitude. For I see the positive in every situation. And not only do I enjoy an immense personal power and potential but I possess also a great self-belief. And, powerful, and dynamic, believing in myself, I am in control of my destiny. And there is nothing to hold me back. I have my share of talent and potential. And I enjoy the ability to focus upon my strengths. And I can achieve anything I want to achieve when I focus my mind. And I find it easy to remain focused and to see things through to their end. And when I take a positive decision nothing can stop me from moving forward. And I love to set and to achieve new goals. And when I set myself a goal, I become very single-minded and focused, one-pointed, upon achieving that goal. And I am absolutely determined to achieve all my goals. And I love to set myself new challenges; I love new goals. And I rise to challenges; I achieve all my goals. And I see myself achieving my goal, as if it is an absolute reality now. I visualize and feel sensorially, and easily, every positive aspect of my goal. And when I have achieved my goal, I thoroughly enjoy my success. I thoroughly enjoy all the positive aspects of having achieved my goal. And I have so much motivation and desire to raise the quality of my life and to create success in every area of my life. For nothing and no one can hold me back. And I never procrastinate. I am always decisive. And I am always positive. For I trust in my judgment and abilities. And I have so much potential. And I completely understand that. And I repeat: I completely understand, on every level, that I have so much potential, and that I will continue to express that limitless potential in so many new, different, creative, and positive ways, for I am determined to go beyond my old limitations and to realize my true potential. I am determined to express and realize my true potential. I am determined to achieve my goals. And nothing and no one can hold me back. For I know a million ways to express my creativity and talents. And I understand, too, that life is full of opportunities. And as time goes by new opportunities will open up for me, and I shall create for myself a myriad of exciting new realities. For I find it easy to manifest good things in my life. And I have so many talents, and so much creativity. And naturally and spontaneously, then, I create many great things in my life. And I achieve many great things. And I live my life to the full, with courage and confidence. And I live my life to the full, with a big heart, and an open mind, and a self-belief that I can achieve anything I wish to achieve when I focus my mind. For I believe in my own judgement and abilities. I trust in my own judgment and abilities. And I believe in myself. Indeed, I have complete faith in myself. For I live my life with complete self-belief. For inside me is an infinite source of wisdom and knowledge, creativity, self-belief, and confidence. And I am enlightened and aware: I enjoy a great understanding of life. And my knowledge leads me to the determination, the strength, the confidence, and the trust that I seek, and that I need, gently, and easily, so as so easily to make changes, radical changes, moving forwards, travelling, going to wherever I wish to go, calmly, and in total confidence. For everything is possible. And I repeat: I know that I can achieve anything I want to achieve, when I go inside and focus my mind. And I will achieve so many great things. I will achieve so much. That too, I know. For it is written down, here, and now. It is certain.

For I am a very positive person.

And I feel completely confident about expressing my positive feelings.

And positive thinking comes naturally to me.

And I always think positively.

Indeed, I actively cultivate the habit of positive thinking.

And it is easy for me to let go of things that don’t work for me, for example.

And I find it easy to make positive changes in my life.

So that I see the positive in every situation.

And I feel so positive in my everyday life.

And I have an incredibly positive outlook on life.

And I always convey positive thoughts and feelings to others.

And I think positively all the time.

And I believe in myself.

And that’s why I radiate positive energy.

NOW.

And that’s why …

I enjoy immense energy, enthusiasm, optimism.

Now.

And I feel incredibly positive and optimistic about my future.

Now.

And I look forward to the future with tremendous optimism.

For I deserve only good things in my life: I deserve to by happy and healthy, eating well, if simply, and taking regular exercise – mens sana in corpore sano – a sound mind in a sound body – a healthy mind in a healthy body – fit in mind and body – and abundant and prosperous, creative and free, and full of such creative, imaginative ideas, and fertile, in mind, and body.

In short: I deserve only the best.

For my tastes are simple: I want the best.

And I want always the best from myself and others and for myself and others.

Indeed, I am easily satisfied with the very best all round.

And, in addition, the positive energy I give to others returns to me tenfold. Always. For what goes around, comes around. And what I give out naturally returns to me. And so naturally I attract good things into my life. And positive people, and energy; for abundance flows to me freely and naturally. And I see limitless opportunities around me. And I draw these opportunities towards me. And I also create many new opportunities. And I understand completely that life, for me, is full of opportunities. And I take up these opportunities. I seize these opportunities. So that my life is a life of opportunity, of extraordinary chances and of fabulous good fortune. And my mind is full of positive thoughts about the future. And I look forward to the days ahead. And so of course I step out with confidence, in confidence. Indeed, I live life, always, with great courage, and confidence. And I take positive, courageous steps into my future. For I am moving easily towards my true destiny. And I am always in the right place at the right time. And, on top of that, I move decisively and with complete self-belief. For I take decisions easily. And I always make the right decisions. And I always meet the right people, at the right time. And being successful is a habit for me: it’s just something that I have come to expect. And so I go forward into my future free of fear. And I go forward in great leaps and bounds. And I move effortlessly ahead so that I am always at the front and on top of my game. So that I don’t walk so much as fly. For my future is looking good now, feeling good now. Looking good, feeling good. And it feels as if I’m flying, flying high: a real high-flyer. And the sky’s the limit for me. And life’s a breeze.

And I am a feather on the breath of God.

And as light – and as free – as a bird.

And I am immortal, too, in a sense.

For love is life that lives forever.

And I continue to feel ever stronger and stronger within myself.

And my inner strength grows stronger all the time.

So that I am calm and confident, knowing that I have so much power and potential inside me.

And my mind is calm and clear; my soul quiet, still.

And I feel safe and secure, comfortable, and relaxed.

And I am at peace with myself and the world around me.

And I feel relaxed and secure.

I am without cares or worries.

I’ve not a care in the world, in fact.

And I accept myself completely.

And I believe in myself.

And I am deeply calm, and totally at peace.

And I enjoy a deep feeling of inner peace.

And I am at ease: centred, strong.

And I am still; I am serene; I am happy; I am free.

And I feel so good in myself.

Floating free, unaware of my body, deeply relaxed, completely relaxed.

And I breathe, deeply.

And I enjoy a deep connection to the effortless flow of nature.

And I trust in life.

And I trust in life itself to deliver all the many good things that I deserve, the very best that life has to offer.

So that my life, too, flows easily and effortlessly.

And I go with the flow.

Saying:

Easy does it now.

Easy, easy.

Easy does it now.

Easily …

Letting go …

Now.

Letting go …

Now.

And now …

Letting go …

I want you now to focus all of your attention upon an area in the middle of your forehead, so that your whole concentration becomes completely focused on a point in this area … and I would like you to imagine this point as a tiny white ball of light … that is now hovering just in front of your forehead … just floating in mid air … right in front of your forehead … and this tiny white ball of light … is in every way … the size and appearance of a tiny distant star … a shimmering, glowing star … shining brightly in the night sky … radiating energy and light … and you may very soon feel … a slight tingling sensation … or you may very soon feel a warm, comforting glow … as you become aware … as you become ever more aware of the radiant vibrations … coming from this tiny white ball of light … that shines ever more brightly … as it hovers just in front of your forehead …

And now …

I would like you … to see this tiny white ball of light … possessing such enormous healing energy … and sending healing thoughts to yourself and others … as it slowly begins to float upwards … just gently lifting up into the air … higher and higher … until it reaches a point … about a foot above your head … and as it hovers there … just above your head … I want you to see it begin to grow in size … and as it begins to expand … shining more and more brightly … you become more and more aware of the radiant quality … of this illustrious object … and you see the purity of its colour … like the pure white of freshly fallen snow … and you feel its radiant warmth … like a gentle heat from an open fire … and maybe you even hear its faint vibrations … as it grows larger and larger … giving off a more brilliant light all the time … and as it grows … like a thought bubble … to the size of a large balloon … a breath balloon … or a ball … a ball of energy … and as you instinctively become aware … of its great healing qualities … its great healing energy … healing thoughts … and sensing that its radiant energy can heal disease … and that this energy can quell any discomfort … and that it can and will revitalize and energize anything it touches … and as it hovers there … just above your head … glowing ever more brilliantly now … and you feel yourself irresistibly drawn to this healing energy … more and more … as you sense its purity … and its inherent goodness … knowing that its healing qualities … have no limit … and know no boundaries … when it comes to seeking out … and freeing any disease or discomfort … and you will want to immerse yourself … in the radiant energy … and to bask in its purity … bathing in its white light … and knowing that you can only benefit … from its wonderful healing properties …

And now … as you think of this … the ball slowly begins to open … gently unfolding, like a rose … like a rose of Jerusalem … or like a lotus flower … as it showers you with its pure, healing, white light energy … energy that will revitalize you … and balance you … energy that will cleanse and heal every part of you … and now, as the free flowing stream of energy … begins its downpour … I want you to feel this stream of healing energy … freely flowing down into every part of your body … down through the top of your head, first of all … and clearing out any negative thoughts or emotions that may be there … and installing new feelings of well being and balance as it goes … down your neck and shoulders … relieving any tension or stress there … all the way down your back … entering every muscle fibre and nerve in your spine … and clearing away any toxins that may have gathered there … and as this fountain stream of pure white healing light … continues cascading down … pouring into every last cell … in your whole body … cleansing and revitalizing you … healing and rejuvenating you … you may begin to feel more and more uplifted … more and more alive … and more motivated, more uplifted, more inspired, more alive … than you have felt in a long, long while … as feelings of health and well-being … begin to resonate through your entire system …

So that now …

As this constant stream of energy … continues to pour into your body … you vividly see this pure healing white light energy … freely flowing into every organ … in your chest and stomach … cleansing every artery and vein … purifying the air in your lungs … strengthening every muscle and bone … as it continues its free flow … down into your lower body … into your legs … and all the way down … to the tips of your toes … and clearing away all waste and debris on the way … and at this point … you may wish to concentrate this tremendous flow of energy … on a certain point of your body … some part of you that needs more healing … directing this tremendous flow of energy … to where you need it most …

So that now …

As you continue to allow this pure healing white light energy … this free flowing radiant white light energy … to permeate every part of you … clearing away all blockages … and cleansing and purifying every part of you …

I want you to imagine … that the ball above your head … has now grown even larger in size … to about three feet in width … so that its endless downpour of healing energy … has now completely enveloped your entire body … so that you are now immersed … from the top of your head … to the tips of your toes … in this radiant healing white light energy … completely bathed in this pure source of radiant energy … and you are bathed in a white light … that continues its free flow in and around your body … so that every cell in your body resonates with this pure healing light … bringing you wonderful feelings of health and vitality … and the knowledge that anywhere, at any time … you can visualize this white light energy … entering your body … and healing every part of yourself … and so that you will continually encourage … feelings of health and well-being … in your mind, body, and spirit …

And so you say to yourself:

I am surrounded by an arc of white, protective, healing light, which shields me against all negative energy. And here I am protected; I am safe and secure. And this bubble of white light seems to carry me up and away, floating off into the sky, towards the infinite blue, of bliss.

And then …

Now …

As the healing process is completed … I want you to see the mass of energy above your head … shrink again to the size of a large ball … and the downpour of energy … begin to slow down … slower and slower … until finally it comes to a stop … as the large ball above your head gently closes … leaving you radiating with feelings of health and vitality … and leaving you surrounded by a rainbow of healing light … as you enjoy a feeling of immense well-being all over … and at this point you will notice … how much better you feel … both physically and mentally … and you will feel, too, a sense of being emotionally uplifted … and as this wonderful healing process comes to its conclusion … I want you to imagine that this large ball … still floating above your head … begins slowly to shrink in size … becoming smaller and smaller … until it returns to the size of a tiny distant star … and then to let it begin to descend … gently floating down … back to the area just in front of your forehead … where it becomes absorbed … back into your consciousness … as you become more and more aware of how uplifted … and of how revitalized you feel … as your whole system … your mind and body … has been purified and cleansed … in this wonderful holistic healing process … that continues, naturally, spontaneously … as and when you’ve need of it … as and when … repeating after me … that … :

IV.

I am That.

BLUE.

And if you like, let’s count down slowly, again, from ten to one. And as you do so, take these steps here, at your feet, down to the sea. Blue. Relaxing more and more. And relaxing deeper and deeper until you are completely relaxed now, and your mind now completely clear; so clear your mind; focus your mind; and think; think clearly; direct your thoughts, then write them down; put pen to paper; and be the ruler of your own world; measure up, in other words; know your own mind, and speak from the heart; speak your mind, from your heart; and do it now; go on.

Going on.

And going on, then, on that inward journey … and taking yourself deeper and deeper into your innermost being … and finding that place … at the centre of the labyrinth … a chamber of echoes … a house of spirits … of voices … of words … of song … of music … almost like a symphony hall … or an opera house … or as Delphi, perhaps … or Olympus … a temple to the soul … deep inside yourself … blue … and a place of deep reflection … beauty … contemplation … meditation … where there is peace … and calm … and tranquillity … and of course you are very curious about that place … and those comfortable feelings that you are noticing as you come closer … and closer … to finding within yourself such a place of safety … and comfort … deep inside yourself … here … and now … and this place feels more … and more … comfortable … and safe … and peaceful … as you settle yourself down … deep down within yourself … and as you know something now … of which until now you had only been vaguely aware … and becoming aware that this place … deep inside yourself … has been there, now, for a long … long … time … and as you look around yourself … taking in the beauty and tranquillity of the scene … and being aware that this place has just the right kind of light for your needs … and knowing that you are surrounded with soft sounds that soothe and comfort you … and feeling just a gentle breeze against your skin … and breathing in a sweet, delicate perfume that seems just to float in the air … and everything just as you need it for your comfort, and ease, and peace … and now I want you to take a few moments … to explore this place … and to become aware that this place is … as small as a grain of sand … and yet … at the same time … as large as the Universe … and that this spark is the life force within you … and that you know that this spark was inside you already … when you awoke this morning … when you were a child … when you were a baby cradled in your mother’s arms … and even when you were in the womb … for this spark already existed and came into you from the very first moment that you were conceived … and think, then, of that tiny body that grew and became you … a new life … extraordinary … developing inside the safe warmth of your mother’s womb … and taking its rhythm from the stars and planets … from nature … and naturally developing in the right way for you … so that when you were born … beneath a full moon, let’s say, in spring … or a bright summer dawn … or into a tender autumnal breeze … or on a crisp, fresh, winter morning … and knowing that you knew already this place, deep inside you … and that you returned to it easily whenever you needed to … and that you kept returning to this place when you were a child … and a young person … and knowing, and knowing perfectly well … that the spark continued to guide you … through your life … and up to just now … a few minutes ago … and that this spark … which is deep inside you … and where you are, right here, and now … listening to me … will of course continue to guide you … and guide you well … right up until the end of your life … and as you breathe out your last breath … this spark will carry on, still then, and always, carrying, and carrying on, your essence … and will carry, then, and carry on, your essence … returning it to the Universe itself … and back to your home among the stars … so that the connection is there from the beginning of time … until the end of time … and as you take now a few moments … to gaze around this place of peace and calm and tranquillity … and to know that this life spark is always there, within you … safely guiding you … and to know, then, that … at any time you choose … in the future … you can make this journey again … to this place … deep … deep … deep inside you … and you can rest there in peace … and calm … and tranquillity … breathing to the slow, steady rhythm of the Universe … with the stars all around you … and the spark of life making all the necessary connections … from the beginning of time … until the end of time …

And so listen to me; repeat after me:

Life entrances you.

And in your trance you feel completely and utterly at ease, completely and utterly comfortable, completely and utterly relaxed.

And in a few moments you will hear me say, that …

The time is always …

NOW.

And when you hear me say the word …

NOW.

And when you hear me say the word …

NOW …

All nervous tension now leaves your body.

And now your body sinks down.

Now sinking deeper and deeper.

Now more and more relaxed.

Now completely letting go.

Now completely comfortable.

And now completely at ease NOW.

And now calm and centred.

And now drifting down …

And now drifting down, and down, and down …

Deeper and deeper.

And into the very deepest …

Deep magic.

And into a state of complete relaxation …

NOW.

So that now you are unaware of your body.

And your mind is free.

And you repeat after me:

V.

My mind is completely clear, and free …

To know, and to know deeply, within myself, and with absolute conviction, that … it is easy, somehow … it is easy …  so easy … to wake, each, and every, day … into the early morning … and before the dawn’s first light … and to wake effortlessly … as if simply easing oneself into, and flowing oneself into, each new day … and the human brain is, after all, an extraordinary 80 per cent water, and the human body is, after all, an extraordinary 70 per cent water – for which reason, perhaps, one finds oneself so easily and so effortlessly and so gently flowing upon the river of time, water, blood, ink, in motion, formless, creative, spontaneous, fluid, fluent, and free.

And so I open my eyes, wide, and look up. And for a split second I catch my likeness in the mirror. And it’s okay; it’s all okay. I am gentle.

And the world is like a looking-glass, says Thackeray, that gives back to every person the reflection of his or her own face.

And I know that an unexamined life is not worth living.

And so I prefer to be awake.

For a person who is truly awake need know no fear.

And for this reason I am very happy to be awake.

And I am wide awake, saying:

“Open your eyes, wake up, and see afresh!

And this, here, beneath your feet, is your path; so why not walk it?”

Saying: yes, for I am that path, my path, my journey, my way.

And I am on my way, time traveller, world wanderer.

And I am already that which I seek, in a way; for I am the gradual discovery, unfolding, and self-revelation, of my own innate potential.

And I achieve easily a clear and focused mind.

For my mind is still.

And I am glad when I realize myself to be clear-minded, focused, and concentrated, easily blocking out all noise and distraction …

For I find it easy to remain focused and to see things through to their end.

And nothing is ever lost on me, myself least of all.

This human life.

And, held in this warm embrace of thought – let’s call it faith – I feel so free now, and so extraordinarily free.

And I am free.

And naturally my unconscious, from such freedom, flows freely.

This field of nature.

This force of nature.

Human nature.

And I breathe so easily, too, and so freely, now, now that I am on my path, and on my journey, and on my way, moving forward, and going on. And my breath flows so easily, deeply, gently.

And inspiration naturally flows into me, as I breathe; and inspiration naturally pours out from me, as I breathe.

And naturally I find myself feeling ever more creative and inspired.

And, thinking ever more clearly, I see that I too can be so very creative, and inspired.

And still there is so much outstanding potential, for growth, and for change.

And, naturally, I am becoming now so intuitive, and so perceptive, and with an expanding knowledge, as if in longing, reaching out, for wisdom.

And I enjoy an abundant creative energy.

For indeed, this creativity, this inspiration, this source … seems … seemingly infinite …

Saying: rise up, my child, and share your dreams with us, show us your dreams, and make your dreams as if real to us, and for us, simply by making manifest, your dreams, and making all of your dreams, in this way, little by little, come true.

( … and there’s more than enough, in any case … inspiration … to make manifest … little by little … your dreams … and more than enough … in any case … inspiration … to make … little by little … your dreams … come true … )

(Show us who you are.)

And a light breeze drifts gently through the mind, clearing away all outside thoughts, all distractions and concerns and, as my mind clears, my thoughts, too, become lighter, and my imagination, then, becomes as if completely free. And I float down, in this way, into my inner world, my inner reality. And I am deeply, deeply absorbed in my own inner, creative world. For I am at almost all times feeling hugely creative and inspired.

And I am creative and inspired.

And I am free.

And I am free to write, right now, write now.

And I can.

And I shall.

Right.

Write now.

And so here I am, and I am wide awake.

And I wake up with a feeling of well-being all over. For I have always so many good things to look forward to in the day ahead. And I am so extraordinarily positive. And I feel so good. I feel so good in myself. And I feel really well. And I feel rested, and refreshed. And I feel relaxed, and secure. And I feel uplifted and energized, full of wonder and excitement. And I’m really enjoying this relaxing, uplifting journey, and enjoying every passing second of each and every day. And I move so easily and effortlessly through life. And over time I feel more and more uplifted. Indeed, I’m having a ball! I’m having a blast! I’m enjoying the time of my life! And I feel so alive, so extraordinarily alive! And I also feel confident, positive, and full of optimism for the future. And I feel incredibly positive, for there are so many good things ahead of me. And I shall continue to achieve so many great things. For I have the will to succeed. And I can hardly wait! And, at the same time, I know well how to channel my enormous energy and enthusiasm, and, at the same time, I know also how to be patient, and I know also how important it is to take just one step at a time. And so first I observe myself as an onlooker, calm and detached. And then I regulate my heartbeat, breathing slowly, and calmly. And then (as if) I say to myself, I say:

Yes …

And I simply breathe out all the old, and heavy, energy.

And all the energy that I breathe in is fresh, and light.

Inhalation.

Exhalation.

All so much oxygen to the brain.

And my muscles, too, are all loose, and relaxed, and soft, and smooth, and free of all tightness, and tiredness. And I cultivate mental calm, mental focus. And right now I am without any cares, or worries. And for this reason my mind is quiet, and still. And I am calm, and centred, and balanced, and confident. And I am safe and secure. And I am floating free, unaware of my body, and deeply relaxed. And, at the same time, all the time, I am feeling ever more and more uplifted and energized.

And, as I awaken, I am deeply and profoundly aware of my mind becoming as if crystal clear, like a clear blue pool of water, or like a mountain lake, or like a still sea, azure, indigo, aquamarine, and a deep, deep, beautiful, boundless, blue.

Still, and clear.

Limpid, crystalline.

And a deep, deep, beautiful, boundless, blue.

Say blue.

Sky blue.

Bliss.

Blue.

And my mind is as if a pool of deep tranquillity from that floats up, effortlessly, freely, abundantly, as in a sea of stories, like an ocean, a vast ocean, of story.

And: ‘Let there be light!’, I say, jumping up energetically from my bed as if this day were my very first on earth, seeing everything afresh and anew, and full with wonderment, like a child, so that all I see amazes me. And nothing here seems ordinary: everything is extraordinary. And this alone makes me so impatient, so desperate, to write: in fact, my hand itches to write, right now. And right now, this minute, too, my hand is just itching, and itching, to write. And I wish to put pen to paper, right now, this minute! So give me please a pen! Take ink! And, weeping with joy, weeping with sadness, I shall write. And I shall write, and I shall write, and I shall write. And, it’s as if I’m sweating ink now, as they say in Spanish: estoy sudando tinto!

And the time, now, is important: for the time is always now.

‘Look sharp!’

And so I wake up each morning as early as I possibly can. And I write …

I write to remember.

And I write to remember that each morning, as early as possible, I wake to write and I write to be awake.

To remember.

And to come to know.

And to understand, a little, if ever so little, of life.

And simply to taste, to smell, to hear.

To see.

To touch.

And to feel …

A little more intensely, a little more acutely, a little more finely.

So that, when I am writing, and when I am reading, and when I am studying, I work with all of my senses: taste; smell; hearing; sight; and touch.

And, in this way, I keep clearly in my mind, constantly recalling that, each morning, as early as possible, I wake, to write, saying: now I shall write, and now I shall write, and now I shall write, and in the morning, too, I shall write, and then I shall write still more.

So that, always, each and every day, as early as possible, I wake, to write; and just as I write, right now, these words … they feel … and one feels … right … and so right, that feeling, as if …

As if, so much oxygen, flowing, to the brain: breathing in, breathing out.

So let’s get going; let’s go.

For yes: you are.

That.

Now.

And, repeating, after me:

I am.

That.

There.

That.

Here.

That.

Now.

(And dreaming, as if dreaming, again, and again, of Prospero).

And so I sit now in a state of quiet contemplation in the writing room of my mind. I sit in a comfortable chair near the warmth of an open fire. To one side is my desk, clear but for a recent manuscript, a tall pile of papers. And surrounding me, on each of the walls, are books: shelf upon shelf of books. For I am a compulsive, a voracious, a voluminous reader. I am a big fat book worm, an ever so greedy library rat; and my library, here, is dukedom enough, for me, for I simply love to read. And I am constantly reading; I am reading all the time, practically inhaling books and ideas, like air … virtue and discipline … meditation and concentration … discernment and wisdom … absorption and reflection … and trying to be always patient, intent, alert … self-shining … and … such … that … literature, poetry, rhetoric, drama, acting, the history of art, the art of the kitchen, music, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, theology, and religions … religions, my goodness … Native American, Animism, Atheism, Buddhism (Zen), Christianity (Mysticism and Monasticism), Confucianism, Druidic Spirituality, Hinduism, Islam (Sufism), Jainism, Judaism, New Age Spirituality, Rastafarianism, Shamanism, Shinto, Shugendo, Sikhism, Taoism, you name it … and can there really be so many gods? or so much absence of these same gods? … and of course not forgetting, also, geography, history, law, politics, economics, the sciences, medicine … and, in short, all our collective human KNOWLEDGE … as much of it (not so much) as I can get my mind around … and all in the full knowledge, in any case, that if we know anything about a path at all, it’s only because of those creative and extraordinary individuals who have gone before us, lighting the way, through reflecting, thinking, teaching, writing, changing, creating, imagining the world … and forming a LIVING KNOWLEDGE … for it is from their curiosity, creativity, and engagement, love and kindness, that we may aspire to follow in these footprints; that is, if we aspire to follow at all … and I think we should, we surely should … and that’s why … well, that’s why it interests me, don’t you see? … that’s why it all interests me …

… and so, in such a way, and with such an attitude, as this, and with my path illuminated by the many who inspire me, I inhale, deeply – of their inspiration – and, thanks to this inspiration, I too, no matter if unrealistically, aspire, in turn, to exhale, and to share, my own modest breath of inspiration … and in this way to be even a small portion worthy … of … or else … in some small way, perhaps … well, in few words, simply to help, even if ever so little … and simply to serve, even if ever so little … and in this way to make some small, modest, positive, contribution, even if ever so little … no matter … and so let us then think again, and only, and exclusively, to those whose work and inspiration continues to guide and to enlighten us … recalling that, like all of us, in truth, I for one live and breathe in this universe of thoughts and ideas … and I live and breathe thanks in part to all the different authors and books that I have read … and thanks in part to all of the different and great figures from history that, thanks to my reading life, I have in some sense encountered, studied with, and learned from; for it is in some sense this vast galaxy of thoughts and ideas, in its entirety, that comprises our human universe, and which, in some sense, makes up also my own individual life, and so that, in some sense, too, it makes up also me. And there have been, and are still, so many minds and imaginations, traveling, seeking company, and creating, over time, a community, of thought, in time; and this, then, the air I breathe, and the company I keep. And the path unfolds, then, beneath your feet; you have only to walk upon it and, in confidence, go on.

And in the Dharmapada it is written that:
When the scholar driveth away sloth by earnestness,
He attaineth the palace of wisdom,
Sorrowless in the sorrowing world.
And the wise one, he looks upon the ignorant,
Even as one upon the mountain peak looks upon one upon the ground.

And, my friend, although you may at times be as fiery as a noble horse touched by the whip, try at the same time to endure all hurtful words in silent peace, much as the strong elephant endures so many arrows released from the angry bow bent in battle’s rage.

And so, in such a way, by faith, by virtue, and by virtue of an ever expanding energy, and by deep contemplation, and vision, and by wisdom, and by right action, you will gradually overcome the sorrows of this life, and begin, rather, little by little, perhaps, to radiate a light upon the world that is a little, just a little, like that of a moon free from cloud.

And be now again attached, and then detached; be now attached, and now again, detached; attached, detached; attached, detached; and learn to understand the difference; and in all cases relaxing into the very fullest of presence, so as to be here now.

And to be, in this way, as if an emptiness prayer; a prayer as if in prayer to itself; an emptiness prayer; and an I, as that.

For that indeed, you are, as nothing.

As NADA.

A subtle, invisible, boundless energy.

Call it “the Force”, if you will.

Or the Tao.

Or the Way.

And so you read between the lines and dive under the net.

And to do so you find, first, a thread of some kind, and then you follow it. And you draw in that line – that strand of meaning, that thread of thought – slowly and patiently, yet with focus and absolute determination. And your thoughts may at times be blown about in the wind but that’s okay too. And you always weave words from these breezy thoughts – words whispered upon the winds – and, in this way, you weave words from the winds and, delicately threading them all together, you weave them, then, into one single fabric, making them become as one single garment, an amazing technicolour dreamcoat; and you stitch up a story, in this way, and with that story, you make not only sense, you make magic, and enchant.

For you are indeed a work in progress.

So put on your thinking cap, my friend; and wear it often; weave words from the winds; and become then the very writing itself.

And, to this end, here, just beside me, is a small coffee table upon which is opened an especially important and gorgeous leather-bound book. This enormous, splendid volume contains the story of my life. It contains descriptions of everything that I have ever thought, or seen, or heard, or smelt, or tasted, or touched, or experienced in any way whatsoever. In addition, it contains descriptions and histories of all my ancestors, complete with the stories of their lives. And absolutely everything that you could possibly imagine is in this book: conversations that I have had; comments that people have made; books that I have read; films that I have seen; places that I have visited; dreams that I have dreamt; passions that have lifted me up and cast me down; my family; my future, and so on. And some of the pages of course refer also to my doubts, and my anxieties, and my fears. And this is perfectly normal, and also a necessary part of our journey.

(In any case, you love movement; and you embrace change.
Change is your only constant.
Keep faith, then, in your hopes, and dreams.)

And so I open, now, the book and look through the pages of this life, one by one. And when my unconscious shows me a picture of a fear or concern that I may have, or a limiting thought, belief, comment, or experience, or whatever, I pause, look at the page, then see the fear or doubt for what it is, namely someone else’s recollection, or someone else’s fear or doubt or recollection that has simply but mistakenly, and wrongfully, been past on to me. And so I study the thoughts on the page, then take a magnifying glass to my eye, and magnify those thoughts, and make them larger, until I see clearly, at last, how those false thoughts have coloured the truth of my own thinking, so that then, suddenly, I can and do take all the colour out of the image on the page, removing all of the doubt, the anxiety, the fear, and letting the picture instead turn grey, getting lighter, fuzzier, and smaller, until it seems at last to disappear right into the surface of the page, such that all I can see now is the texture of the paper itself … as the paper absorbs all of the emotions surrounding the image, like a sponge … and look, before my very eyes the texture of the page is absorbing and drawing away all of the negative emotion, right now … so that as I look, all I can see is the clear texture of an empty white page … and I realize, then, and I know, then, that that page no longer belongs in the book of my life, of my thoughts, among that which describes or defines me … instead it is entirely out of date, and irrelevant … so that now, at last, I can simply tear out the page of the book completely, removing any tiny, remaining trace of that limiting thought or belief or emotion or memory … and then I crumple up the paper and throw it into the grate, where it swiftly catches fire and is reduced, little by little, to ashes … And all of the unwanted and unneeded thoughts, emotions, and fears that were described there have now gone up in flames, so that I am free of them, finally, and once and for all. And now I move on. In an attitude of calm. And in a state of tranquillity. And freedom. And I return, then, in peace, to my chair, and to looking through my book … the book of this manifestation, of something larger, which is somehow me … and the book of life’s various expressions of “me” … as if this were, in fact, the book of “myself” … to come to express, and to see, and to understand, a little more clearly … “my” … “self” … and this, then, as if the book of my life  … Such that, each time an unwanted image comes up, the same process is repeated. First I reject it, then it fades and disappears, then I rip out and then burn up the page, knowing now, understanding completely now, that these pages represent thoughts and emotions that are simply no longer a part of my life, and that simply no longer belong in the book of my life, or in my thoughts, at any time, or in any way. And in fact they are meaningless now. They have no place in my life. And so I reject them, free then to continue my search for the meaningful … and the beautiful … and the noble, and the true … and all the time, meanwhile, releasing old tensions and fears, as I do so … and beginning at once, at the same time, to tell, in their place, another, and a better, and a more beautiful, and a more wonderful story … that opens my mind, and frees my voice, and my soul.

For the caged bird must first learn to sing.
And with its song, to fly …
And to fly far, far away …
And at last to be free.

So let it all go, my friend; simply let it all go.

And travel light.

Feel free.

And go far.

And, at the same time – why not? – repeating after me – saying, with me, that …

I release now, too, all those old memories that are no longer serving me and that are no longer in any way helpful. And I let go, too, of all struggle, all dispute, all disharmony, and all tension. And all the unwanted pages, all those discarded pages, I throw immediately into the fire, which roars in the grate, the smoke billowing up the chimney, disappearing into thin air, as the pages burn to cinders and are reduced to ashes. And such that all that is unwanted now goes up in flames, including all the emotions and fears that were once attached to the thoughts and comments and experiences that I have now rejected. So that now I can move on, and I mean to move on, and I mean really to move on. For I am ready, now, to move on. And I am ready to move forward, and to live my life again with courage and confidence and, little by little, to become all that I can be and, little by little, to fulfil all of my unique potential. And I am calm and free, feeling safe and secure, creative, and inspired.

And my mind returns then, again, to where I sit, still, in my chair, with this, the book of my life. And then I open the book again, to somewhere in the middle, and seemingly at any random page. But what a wonderful scene! It’s me in the future, a picture, so large, so vivid, and so realistic, that I know at once it is true, it is real, and it is all that I have ever wished for, and that all I have ever wished for is now slowly and surely being realized, and that all that I wish to achieve in life I am now achieving, and will achieve, as I see and understand from my future, my understanding of which is now so clear and so vivid, so brilliant, that at last I realize that in fact this future is taking place NOW, and that I am already … NOW … in this, the present moment … the person that in fact I always dreamt of being, and indeed that my life is precisely the life I always dreamt of, and precisely the life I always wanted, so that now … this IS my reality … and I am the writer of this life, this story, this life story … writing out the story of my life … and creating a world …

And so you say to yourself: okay, good; make it so.

My blue-eyed boy.

My Ariel.

And you, you speak the language of the gods: did you know that?

You speak the language of the gods: the divine Word …

And blessed is he who hears the word of God, and keeps it …

… which gives me an idea, in fact …

Ummmmmmm …

Let me reflect for a second.

(A great blue lake, serene).

Let me think.

Ummmmmmm …

The sky, the mountains, the streams, the lakes, the rivers, the hills, the forests, the woods, the fields, the land, the sea, the sky, saying:

Heavens!

And, humming a little to myself, as I think …

Humming, Ommmmm …

The divine sound.

The one (uni)verse, repeated over and over.

Humming Ommmmmmm …

Humming, hummmmm …

Hummmmmmm …

Oh, man …

Oh, mmmmmmhhh … and all this, a …

Great

Over

Dose

… of life itself …

My goodness!

And so saying, then, to myself, I say: imagine it so, for it may be true, and in this way I’ll swallow it, taking it all in, accepting it all, digesting it all, and making of it all a most marvellous and magnificent meal, as if a succulent, scrumptious, sacrifice, of life, giving life.

And how beautiful it all is, how extraordinary, and magnificent, and wonderful, to be under these blissful blue skies, your eyes.

And you have a good eye, too; I see that.

You have an eye for beauty.

And you see beauty everywhere.

So take heart, my friend; take heart.

Be well.

VI.

For indeed, there is so much beauty in the world that you feel often as if you simply cannot take it anymore, and as if your heart were at the point of simply caving in from the sheer weight of so much beauty, and all of it such as if to make your heart simply burst, and die.

And the die then cast.

Spilling ink …

Seppuku.

In beauty, bliss.

 

Blue.

 

And then there’s you, too, you for whom absolutely nothing is ordinary; and everything, really absolutely everything, is, in fact, really, rather, extraordinary.

And, all you see – in each and every moment – is amazing.

 

So listen.

 

Experience suggests that we make nothing of that which we keep for ourselves. We don’t make anything of that which we set aside either. Instead of understanding this, why then are we so reluctant to offer, to give, to ask, and to receive?

And so I say to you:

If you are looking for answers, ask questions.

And when, in turn, you are asked a question, do your utmost to give an answer, even if that answer is incomplete or unsatisfactory and no more than an essay, and a poor attempt at understanding.

And give of yourself, too.

Give of yourself totally, in fact.

And let your heart bleed out in ink, in which, bleeding your heart out, you write a poetry of blood and sweat and fire.

And still you let the words flow freely …

Red blood.

Black ink.

Blue water.

Blue sky.

Blue.

Breathing in, inhaling, with all the stillness of the unstirred waters of a lake.

And breathing out, exhaling, as you observe your breath moving across the waters in ever expanding circles, sending out ripples, vibrations, waves, in sounds …

True.

And so of course you make the most of each and every moment of your life, asking yourself: why not enjoy life from now on, and to the full? And then: life is for living, so enjoy life, and enjoy it thoroughly. For being alive is so exciting. And there is simply so much to experience and to enjoy; and there is so much to see, to hear, to smell, to touch, to taste; and there is so much to feel and to experience; and I should like to experience and to enjoy every good thing on earth, shouldn’t you?

And so you simply love all this experience of life, throwing yourself into it with all the passion and joy and abandon of which you are capable. And you simply love life, so much. And you love all the people on the planet, pretty much, and all the oceans, and the earth, you love, too, saying simply that the sky’s the limit, and living, always, as if this day were perhaps your very last, and saying to yourself: let go, then, of this day, and make room, make room for, and live, then, hopefully, perhaps, another.

And don’t cling; just let it go.

Just let it go.

And just let go.

And just go!

For the traveller soon reaches the end of the journey. And then, in the freedom of the Infinite, he finds himself free from all sorrows, and the fetters that bound him are thrown away now, and the burning fever of life is no more.

No matter.

LOVE.

For the time is always now.

In intensity.

And inspiration.

And empathy.

And affinity.

And infinity.

And joy.

For love is life that lasts forever.

And happily there is still time, for time is infinite, time is eternal.

Although I refuse, still, for now, to bring this journey to its end.

And you?

In any case, I can feel that I have so much life left inside me, still; and I am so alive; and I love life; and I love life, that lasts, as if, forever, knowing that love itself, is life, itself, somehow, that lasts, forever.

And I have no need, then, to think of death, or dying. Indeed, I have no intention, right now, of dying. I’m going to put that off. And in fact, dying will be the very last thing that I do! And, before that, I shall live perhaps to be 100, fit and active, alert and very much alive, happy, and well. And you? And what about you? You too?

For you, my friend, are human being.

And all that is human, familiar to me, close to me, is of interest to me, and shall be dear to me, saying:

Oh man, thou art, that …

To think, therefore …

And that …

I am.

Being, and being …

Aware.

And aware, simply, of an idea; and of an idea, floating up, from the obscure depths of your dream, to the clear, still, surface of your mind.

And an idea; and then another idea; and then another, and another, and another …

Stirring the secrets of the soul, to share …

As in a well, a fountain, a stream …

… and quickly, then, give me paper, a pen, for I must write it all down …

… and let me write it all down now, immediately, straight away, right now, this minute …

First, God as Being.

For in the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God.

And God said: “May I be many … may I be propagated”.

And by his divine will, expressed through subtle speech, he united himself with that speech and became pregnant, saying:

From Being, Mind.
From Mind, Desire.
From Desire, Will.
From Will, the Word.
And from the Word, every splendid, marvellous thing.

And I name you, then …

(The infinite Blue of Bliss.)

For we are like the spider: you, me, the others, and all of us. We weave our little web of life then move around upon it.

And we are like the dreamer who first dreams, then steps into that dream, and lives it.

Come, then, step into my ink boat, and let’s sail away, together, to distant shores …

To paint a picture.
Tell a story.
Do both.
(For every picture tells a different story).

And open your mind, in any case.

For what you think, you create.
And what you feel, you attract.
And what you imagine, you become.

Tattwam Asi.
(That-Wahm-Ah-See)
Tattwam Asi.

For … You … are … That …

Blue.

That Blue, for which you seek …

Saying:

Your house may feel comfortable, my friend, but to feel the sun on your back and the wind in your face, you must first step outside.

And to be an astronaut of the void, first leave the comfortable house that imprisons you with reassurance. To be going and to have are not eternal. Fight, then, the fear that engenders the beginning, the middle, and the end.

(Dear Derek Jarman).

For you are bigger than that; and you are better than that; and you know that …

And indeed, your true home is here and now. It is not limited by time, space, nationality, gender, or race. And your true home is not an abstract idea. It is something that you can touch and live in every moment, in mindfulness; for with mindfulness and concentration you can find your true home in the full relaxation of your mind and body in the present moment. And no one can take that away from you. Other people can occupy your country, they can even put you in prison, but they can never take away your true home and freedom.

And the prophet Muhammad said, “What have I to do with worldly things? My connection with the world is like that of a traveller resting for a while underneath the shade of a tree, then moving on.”

And for Blue there are no boundaries or solutions.

Be boundless, then, Blue.

Be Bliss.

And know, too, and repeat the thought, again, that you are, that, that you seek.

Saying Yes. And Yes. And Yes.

My path; my journey; my way.

And asking: what, then, is important to you?

What is your heart’s desire?

What are your goals?

What do you hope to achieve with your life?

What are your values and aspirations?

What are your dreams?

What, your element?

And what, your contribution?

And do reflect now, carefully, upon these questions – and then reflect upon them some more, and then over, and over, again – for your answers to these questions shall eventually give you the meaning of your life.

Asking:

For what, then, do you seek?

For what are you seeking?

And I tell you, I am seeking:

The fathomless Blue of Bliss …

And so listen: listen to me, my friend. And try to live your life, as it were, as if on purpose, with intention, so that you shall be then at one and the same time both the arrow and the archer. And, being then a little like a master in the art of Kyudo, you release your bow, you let the arrow fly, and then, and only then, do you quickly draw your target, hitting it dead centre every time. And I repeat: first you loose the arrow, and then you dream of your target. And you always just say what you’ve got to say. And you always just write what you’ve got to write. And you always get directly down to business. And, as you appreciate time, you always go directly, too, to the point. And you see the point. For life, time, energy, these are, after all, all precious, and all infinitely precious, and this the very point now; bullseye!

For, as you know full well, and again, repeating after me:

My look – my gaze – is bold, firm, and steady.

And, at the same time, it is gentle, softened by feelings of love, and warmth, and compassion.

My fixed gaze, then, is at once relentless – piercing, insightful – and relenting – forgiving. For forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is, in the words of Martin Luther King, a permanent attitude.

(And so, from an already great depth now, let’s go deeper. And in that great seeming darkness, and seeming quietness, seeming silence, apparent stillness, search now for your most profound understanding. And when at last it is dark enough, then at last you shall no longer know fear, and only then shall you see the full brilliance of the canopy of stars above your head. For truly, it is in the darkness that one finds the light, such that it’s often when we are most deeply in a state of sorrow that this light comes nearest to us. And the deeper the sorrow that comes into your being, the more joy, too, you shall eventually live, and experience, and carry, and share, for joy and sorrow are inseparable, as we come to know.)

And so I see now so clearly. I have clear vision and intuition. And I am so intuitive and insightful. And this is because I am connected to my feelings, which guide me always in the right direction. And I am connected to my intuition. And my intuition always guides me well. And I take good decisions and I make wise choices. For I enjoy an abundance of wisdom and knowledge. And I have so much wisdom and knowledge inside of me. And so I trust always in my own judgement, for I am deeply tuned in to my intuition and to my inner self. And I am connected to my inner, and my higher, self. And I am deeply, deeply connected to my creative self. And I find it easy always to be raising my consciousness. And I connect so easily and naturally to the infinite creativity inside of me. For I enjoy abundant creative energy. And I am always so creative and resourceful. And I am constantly expressing my creativity in new and exciting ways. And, at the same time, I express my thoughts and feelings with extraordinary freedom and great ease. And I clearly and concisely articulate my thoughts and feelings. And I always articulate my thoughts and feelings very clearly and concisely, both verbally and in writing. And I speak and write and live from the heart and mind. And I follow my intuition. And at the same time, I speak my mind. I speak with courage and conviction. I speak with authority. I speak from the heart. And I am always powerfully persuasive, my words always passionate, heartful, transformative, entrancing, mesmerizing, and magical.

And, although solitude is my natural state, and my dearest friend, and although I love to be alone, where I am always quiet, calm, and at peace with myself and the world around me, I love also, sometimes, to be in company, for I love people, too, and in every way.

And when I am alone, I conduct myself as if I were in the presence of others. And when I am in the presence of others, I conduct myself, quietly and naturally, as if I were alone.

And people perhaps respond to that, very gently, as if in gratitude, and with love.

And just be yourself, in other words; this is the take-away.

And be true … to your … gentle … kind … loving … self … knowing … that …

Now …

And knowing, too, now, that … you, too, are someone also so very sociable, and someone who enjoys to be around other people, and who loves to be surrounded by others. And at such times you give of yourself always so generously, like a fountain of good energy and ideas, flowing forth in abundance, effortlessly, and unceasingly. And in such ways you reach out, and you communicate, and you listen, and you love.

And if sometimes you appear contradictory, so what?

Asking:

Do I contradict myself?

Very well, then I contradict myself.

(I am large, I contain multitudes).

And you are not scared of contradiction and paradox.

For you are creative and free.

You are spontaneous, and alive.

And you easily take risks, even if you also, when necessary, know, too, how to weigh your words, with care.

And you easily and always turn tension into attention.

And you know, too, that, ultimately, simplicity is the glory of expression.

And so you always talk slowly, but think quickly.

You ask:

“Why do you want to know? Why do you ask?”

And:

“What is your purpose?”

“What is your point?”

And: “What am I to understand by that?”

“What do you wish me to understand by that?”

“What are you trying to say?”

“What are you saying?”

“And what do you mean by that?”

And simply:

“What do you mean?”

And: “Do you know what you are saying?”

“Do you fully understand what you are saying?”

“What do you understand?”

Saying:

“I’m very sorry. I think that I must have misheard you. I think that I must have misunderstood you. And could you please repeat that last comment? I see … Thank you.”

And then, when confronted by someone of a momentarily poor energy, or limited expression of intelligence, or temporarily closed heart, be kind and patient, be compassionate. And, if necessary, echo the words and mimic the actions of the person in the hope that, their own words and actions echoed and mimicked back to them, they will better be able to reconsider them and begin again, afresh. And when you are asked a stupid or insensitive question, simply repeat it, then be silent, wait. And if a person persists in their stupidity to the point of aggression, still you remain calm, and remain quiet, and simply ignore them, initially. And if still they persist, then, and only then, you act. And you ask them: Is it your conscious wish to waste my time? Do you think to annoy me? Do you mean to irritate me? And is it really your intention to anger me? But then, to their surprise, you overwhelm and overcome such a person with the power of your empathy, compassion, pity, understanding, and love. And failing that, and if all else fails, you know in any case that such a person has no place in your world. So do not overreact, but simply ask them to be silent or to leave. Say to them: “We live in different worlds, you and I. And there can clearly be no understanding between us. And being together is a waste of my time, for you are as nothing to me. And I am glad that now you shall again be far from me, as is right. Now out of my sight!” And then see this person clearly, as they are: a momentary illustration of stupidity or insensitivity; and a mere triviality; and finally, nothing at all; nothing at all, of any importance. And if still they continue to irritate, like a gadfly, you must yourself leave; so turn first your cheek and, failing that, turn your whole back upon such a person so that their own energy rebounds upon them, then simply move on, and go. And such a person you shall instantly forget. You shall make no further reference to them. They are immediately forgotten, and as if they never existed for you. And for you they shall be now as nothing and as no one.

And so I am always calm and confident, and completely relaxed, in the company of others, regardless of whether I am in the presence of a small or a large group of people, and regardless of whether they be friends or strangers, And I remain always calm and relaxed in the company of others. For I always pitch myself perfectly: I always hit the right note. And I am always in tune, in harmony, with those around me. And I communicate with confidence, easily conveying my positive thoughts and feelings to others. In fact, I am completely comfortable and confident when speaking to other people, both individually and when there are many people gathered together before and around me. For I am always relaxed whenever I am in the presence of other people. And people are attracted to my likeable, easy-going personality. And so I am confident about my social skills. And I am confident about my ability to engage meaningfully and pleasurably with others. And in such ways I refine my social skills ever more and more. And I develop my inner strength and calm. And so I appreciate, now, that I always express myself clearly and succinctly, verbally and in writing, whether alone or in company. For I always express myself easily and with confidence. And I always speak freely and easily with, as appropriate, great insight, imagination, intelligence, and humour. And I become so deeply interested, and so deeply absorbed, either in what I am saying myself or else, far more interestingly, in what the person before me is telling me, such that I become completely focused on this conversation to the complete exclusion of all else even as, at the same time, I remain perfectly relaxed, perfectly calm and self-confident, whenever I am speaking to other people, whether that’s one to one, or to a small or large group, and whether it’s business or pleasure, I am not at all conscious of myself, and of my feelings, and so I talk in a way that is completely free and natural, and if in conversation I find myself feeling ever so slightly self-conscious, my focus and attention is immediately renewed and reabsorbed in the conversation, and I remain at all times calm, confident, and self-assured. And I easily and always turn tension into attention, at once. And for these reasons I find that I get on better with people. And I gain the respect of others easily. For I am an excellent listener. And I like to laugh with those around me, to make them laugh, in turn, and then to laugh with them, for laughter is a wonderful way to communicate. And I feel happy and content knowing that I can communicate easily with people from all walks of life, drawing always upon my great experience of life so as to make my conversation lively and interesting, and so that my conversation flows always so easily and so naturally. And I enjoy so much to be around other people, and to talk to people, regardless of the subject of conversation. I enjoy talking to people. And I always meet people on equal terms. And I am completely relaxed in the presence of other people, be they friends or strangers, and that’s to say, people who at first may seem a little strange to me, but people who are, in fact, friends to be, friends for the future. For I always meet the right people at the right time. And I am calm and confident in company. And, on the basis of the energy that I receive from the people around me, and on the basis of the subconscious signals and body language that I receive from others, I consciously select those individuals from a larger group that I wish to speak to, and then I go directly to those people, one at a time, saying “Hello. I have a question. Who are you, by the way? And how do people see you, do you think? Very nice to meet you, in any case. And could you help me more clearly to understand? And how may I help you? And have we met before? Have we had the pleasure? And have you a minute? Shall we talk? What, for example, have you been thinking about today? How do you like to spend your spare time? How have you been feeling? How is your health? Are you often here? And what do you like to do with your time? What are your interests? What do you feel passionate about? Who do you love? Who drives you wild? And do you really think … ?” And then: “Let me repeat to you what I think I’ve heard.” And: “Okay, forgive me; I think it’s time now to let go, to move on, to circulate. Let me thank you, though. That was a pleasure. And it has been a real pleasure to meet you. And I hope to see you again soon. And I look forward to continuing our conversation.” And so they speak to me, all these different people, telling me the stories of their lives, so that suddenly it’s as if we’ve known each other forever, for always. And I speak, too, a little, for I make small talk easily, and words come easily to me. And I am never at a loss for words, I am never lost for words. Indeed, I work with words; and from my work, I word worlds. Wyrd, no? I study languages, too, not only my own mother tongue, English, that I use and appreciate daily, trying always to deepen my understanding of this extraordinarily rich and beautiful language, but also many other languages, too. And as I learn a new language, I read aloud in that language for 15 or 30 minutes each day. And the words come easily to me. And I am never at a loss for words. And I learn languages. And I study hard. Indeed, I love languages and words, knowing that to learn a foreign language is to enter into a love affair with a people and a culture. And it is to become a different person, too, in a way, and also to begin to think in a different way. And it is to see the world from another perspective or point of view. And it is eventually to recognize and to know oneself as at home in the world, where all feels strangely familiar, and where all strangers are recognized, and greeted, in fact, as family (even if family life itself seems often so strange!).

VII.

And I dance, too, to the music of language. And I am always dancing, in some sense or another; dancing thoughts, dancing mind; dancing energy. And I move easily and fluidly to the flow of all the words that sound in my hearing, and that flow easily into my ears and into my consciousness, and that flow out easily from my heart and tongue, in song. And I go with this stream of sound, this stream of consciousness. And I go with the flow.

And it is through my words that I reach out to the world: I read and I write, I learn and I teach, I am inspired and sometimes, too, I inspire, perhaps; and I am motivated, and sometimes, too, I motivate others, perhaps; and very often, in any case, I find myself delighted, simply marvellously delighted, and entertained, by it all; this great theatre of life …

And while writing out these words I, too, feel again … inspired … and … motivated … and again NOW, as ALWAYS …

For I always feel inspired and motivated.

And I always feel so creative and inspired.

And I am, in fact, so often so very creative, and inspired.

And truly I am an inspiration, sometimes – if only to myself, my smiling little me: and there again an unexpected, exciting thought – as if a flash of inspiration! You see?

And yes, I see.

(Seeing the light; becoming the light; being the light. Inspiration. Illumination. Enlightenment.)

(Seeking again, and again.)

And so, immediately, this moment, at once, you pick up your fountain pen, dipping its nib in ink, and letting the words flow freely, and letting the words from my fountain pen flow freely forth, once more, and again, to write, again, obsessively, and obsessively, to write, again, and more …

(And what a great pleasure it is to balance again this pen in my hand, as if it were a fountain of ink, and of thoughts, and of ideas, and of words, all written out, in longhand. And still now it’s as if I can recall once writing with a quill, and as if all these words were flowing out from me, flying out, from my hand, as light as a feather. And in such a way my thoughts themselves seem sometimes, then, to fly, as if settling for a moment first here, then there, then traveling backwards, and forwards, in time, and traveling far and wide so that, in the most positive of senses, pure spirit, I am all over the place, and I am at once everywhere, and nowhere.)

And all of a sudden I recall something important, suddenly remembering what it is that I needed to remember, so that suddenly, I do remember that, then, and not only what it is that I needed to remember, and need to remember, but also the sensation, the recollection, the memory, too, not only of that immediate thing that I needed to remember, and need to remember, but also the feeling, too, of always remembering, so that suddenly it’s as if I remember everything; absolutely everything; so that I recall it all and, recalling it all, I remind myself, gently, that that’s just fine. And that that’s just right. And I remember.

And every day, in this way, without fail, whatever time it is, and wherever I am, and regardless of whoever else may be with me, and whatever else I may think I need to do, I write. And I write obsessively. And on many days I even start early and write from 3.30 in the morning. And on top of that, I am forever freeing up time, say 5, 10, 15 and 30 minute slots during the day, to write. For I easily clear time and space to write. And I say to myself: “Now I shall write”. Day thinks, thoughts. Morning pages. Noon thinks, thoughts. Afternoon pages. And evening pages. Night thinks, thoughts. Night pages. Dawn thinks, thoughts. Dawn pages. And I write obsessively. And for at least three hours every day, I write; and for at least three hours every day, I read. And in this way I write at least five pages, and 1,000 new words a day, every single day. And every single week, and without fail, I write … And every single year, without fail, I complete … I fill out, and complete, my days, and nights; I fill out, and complete, my time.

(And in reality all reality begins in a dream, in a thought, and in an intention, does it not? Or not?)

And, in addition, I keep a journal that I work on for at least 30 minutes every evening before going to bed. And there I record everything that I have seen, smelt, and heard, touched, and tasted, felt, and experienced, on that day. And I also take careful note, and note down there, there, on these pages, with care, all of my thoughts and my ideas, my fantasies and my imaginings, my wishes and my dreams. And every time that I have an idea for a story, or dream up some extraordinary tale in my imagination, or think simply of some text, perhaps a dialogue, or a character, or a situation, or a scene, that captures my attention, and interests me, I immediately write it down. And on top of that I write letters, to my friends, and loved ones, “my” (smiling) “people”, with all my love.

(I live a life of letters.)
(And of words.)
(And as if myself but a passing word, ordered by someone, at some time, then quietly worded into life.)

And:

“Dear friend.
I am inspired now to write to you.
For you have been in my thoughts a lot lately.
And you are in my thoughts now.
And my thoughts go out to you.
And you are in my prayers.
And listen, I’ve been thinking …
And yesterday, this happened …
And today, that happened …
And tomorrow …
Can you believe it?
Amazing!
And what about you?
And what do you think … ?
And I love you, by the way.
And I’m sorry.
Please forgive me.
(Thank you.)
And anyway …
That’s about it for now; that’s all there is for the moment; that’s all there is for now; that’s all for today.
And one day soon, in any case, we shall meet again, no doubt, and see each other once more, and speak, in person, face to face, I hope, I’m sure.
Indeed, I know it to be true.
And I look forward to sipping some tea with you, then, or perhaps some coffee – liquid friendship – and to hearing what you’ve to say for yourself.
And I look forward to continuing our conversation.
And so, until then, I picture your warm smile and lovely face in my mind, and hold you dear; holding you infinitely dear.
(Holding everything, everyone, dear, your tender eye.)
So work hard and, above all, play hard; don’t forget to have fun!
And be happy, and be well.
And be blessed, my friend, in love.
Yours, ever … “

And through my letters I find ways quietly to reach out to the world, and to make new friends, and to draw old friends nearer, and closer, and dearer, still, and to share a few thoughts, and experiences with them, and to give a little more of myself, perhaps, if I can, and perhaps also to receive a little back, in return, and to communicate, and to connect, and to enjoy, in short, your good company, my friend. For everyone loves a letter.

And so every single day I write at least one special card or email or letter. And I write to my friends and family, of course. And I write also to other writers, artists, musicians, philosophers, intellectuals, so as to reach out to people, and to give, and to receive, and to exchange ideas, and to learn, and all for understanding, and company. And I write, too, to agents, editors, publishers, literary magazines, newspapers, because … why not? (And I never take “no” for an answer, in fact. I never give up.) And all, after all, is currency, exchange, movement, circulation, and flow. And I perfectly well know that what goes around, comes around. And that, as you sow, so shall you reap. And so I try to share any good karma I may have, if any. And all these good vibrations … ; well, may they mind how they go …

And all this, and more, I express in words: I write things down. And I am always writing things down: in letters, poems, story fragments, ideas, dreams, short stories, long stories, plays, dramas, and even novels, sometimes, too. And I write obsessively, for this, after all,  is the vocation of a writer, and that’s simply what I do: I write.

And am I then a writer?

Perhaps yes, for words flow from me, and I write.

And perhaps, no; who knows? And who’s to say?

No matter.

Although I have realized, and I do know, that in my reality, I do know, and I do really know, I know it, in my gut, and feel it, profoundly, that I do wish, and want, and must, now, right now, again, as all the time, as always, again, to write.

And I simply want to write, right now.

And I will write.

For I am a writer; I write.

And that’s who I am, quite simply: and mine a life in writing, and in words, that’s all.

And just go, then, with the flow, the flow of ink …

For that’s who I am.

That’s what I do.

And you too, it seems to me.

You, too, work with words: you, too, are a writer.

You are worded, profoundly.

(As I believe we all are, in time, written out.)

(And all of us, the writers, then, in some sense, of the stories of our own lives, and of our own times; and these stories written out not only in lines upon a page, or across a screen, but in lines written out also, and most profoundly, upon our faces, and upon our loved ones’ faces, and in our obituaries, and upon our graves.)

And is it not so?

And then again, you are reading these words now, and I guess that this makes you already a reader, doesn’t it? Well done!

And then, as you are already a reader, you are also already, in some sense, a word specialist, too!

And, as you read, your reading language, already, is wording you, and making you, and willing you, in turn, to speak, and perhaps also to write.

For you, too, are a writer.

And I am confident that you are rewriting this text as you read it, and as you absorb each thought, one by one, word by word. And I am also confident that this text, too, in turn, is writing you. And in this way we are all of us writers, after all. We work alone, at times, for sure; and at other times we work together. And our writing may be good or bad; of great and universal, or of only limited and local interest, no matter. And we all know, now, and understand now completely, that we are simply writing out the stories of our lives, as best we can. This is what I am doing. And this is what you are doing. And, my friend, I love and respect and admire you for that. And writing out the story of my life, I try to copy now your good example, and do the same, saying: this is it, then, this is my story, this is me: the best that I can be.

And how extraordinary it all is, when you think about it.

And how extraordinary it all is, when you think about it, that so many writers have been prepared to accept a kind of martyrdom in the writing life, this being the best tribute that flesh can pay to the living spirit of man as expressed in his literature. And one cannot doubt that the martyrdom will continue to be gladly embraced. For to some of us, the wrestling of beauty out of language is almost the only thing in the world that really matters. And I think that it was Anthony Burgess who first articulated this thought in more or less this way. And clearly it resonates very strongly with me. And does it resonate also with you?

And [so] I belong, then, in fact, to an ancient, idle, wild and useless tribe, perhaps I am even one of the last members of it who, for many thousands of years, in all countries and parts of the world, has, now and again, stayed for a time among the hard-working honest people in real life, and sometimes has thus been fortunate enough to create another sort of reality for them, which in some way or another, has satisfied them. And I am a storyteller, then, a teller of tall tales, drawing water from the deep, deep well of our culture. And these words, this time, are those of Karen Blixen.

And by the power of my written word I shall make you hear, I shall make you feel, and before all else, I shall make you see – That – and no more, and it is everything. And if I succeed, you shall find there according to your deserts: encouragement, consolation, fear, charm – all you demand – and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask. Joseph Conrad.

And E M Forster, famously:

“Only connect.”

And naturally one finds, in human nature, both the best, and the worst.

And do try not to be deceived by either of these appearances.

[And] let’s hunt [then] for a third tiger now, but like the others this one too will be a form of what I dream, a structure of words, and not the flesh and bone tiger that, beyond all myths, paces the earth. And I know these things quite well, yet nonetheless some force keeps driving me in this vague, unreasonable, and ancient quest, and I go on pursuing through the hours another tiger, the beast not found in verse. And these words are those of Jorge Borges, in “The Other Tiger”.

 

 

And again now, as I write, I lose myself completely in the story of life that slowly unfolds before me. And I float down ever more deeply into my inner world, my inner reality, going deeper and deeper now, until I am deeply, deeply, deeply absorbed in my own inner, creative world, from where I am finding myself responding effortlessly, automatically, to an inner awareness, and an inner knowing. And I remain permanently connected to the mystery of this powerful, creative source inside of myself. And I do so sometimes consciously, and often unconsciously. For as I write out this life story I lose all sense of time, and place, and I lose also all sense of myself, even, for I become wholly absorbed in the telling of my story.

And recall now the words of Raymond Chandler: “A good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled. I always regard the first draft as raw material. What seems to be alive in it is what belongs in the story.”

And so let’s clear away first the weeds and prepare the ground; then sow the seeds; and then, finally, watch as the shoots grow tall and then blossom into flower, reaching up, for the sky.

And I think now of a crag in the rock, a fissure, an opening.

And from the earth, energy, reaching upwards towards the sky, and flowering beneath the infinite heavens, the sky, in light.

And what inspires you to write?

That’s easy: EVERYTHING!

EVERYTHING INSPIRES ME TO WRITE!

And then, in our writing – why not? – perhaps we can work together towards a clearer and perhaps also a deeper understanding of this, our world.

And I use writing, then, seeking understanding, as a form of meditation upon the world.

And, as such, I consider the work of a committed writer to be of the utmost importance: it ups the ante, it raises the stakes. And, in general, as Andrew O’Hagan once commented, and I quote: “[I] have a bit of a trades union attitude when it comes to writers. I admire their individual expertise and I support their collective influence. So when I see authors in the world who are silenced or punished or rubbished it feels to me like a personal insult.”

More frivolously, writing, too, can be an addictive pleasure, such that the more one writes the more one wants to write and the more one wants to write the more …

I MUST WRITE NOW.

And so writing, then, is also, for me, an obsession.

(And perhaps it could be described as a kind of “possession”, too, as if one were in some way possessed by the different voices, and the different spirits, of the living, and the dead, to which or to whom one listens).

Mind, body, spirit.

What, when, how.

And to know without knowing.

And to hear without hearing.

And to see without seeing …

And so I am completely aware now of everything that is happening around me.

And yet, at the same time, I am deeply in trance.

And I am moving easily between worlds.

And I am in touch with my dreams.

And I follow my dreams.

And I follow my inspiration.

And I go with the breath.

And I go with the flow.

Always.

For I find it now very easy to bypass my ego and to draw out the true genius inside of me, expressing my talents free from fear. For my inner voice goes into trance, and speaks for me, speaks, and writes, writing everything down. And all the time I find that I am watching, and I am observing. And I notice even the smallest detail. And I see and I feel everything. And perhaps for this reason, then, I am all the time creating sounds, and making connections, from words, in words, and singing songs, and spinning sense, and weaving words from the winds, and making music, from language.

And, as in life itself, a sense, and a story, reaches me in a broken mosaic of tiny fragments; and from these I look for patterns from which I forge connections and meaning, as if assembling the scattered pieces of a puzzle from which a picture may eventually emerge, and the story come together.

And, still so sweetly, mid the gloom, the invisible bird sang to itself, that there I could have made my dwelling place, and lived forever there, to hear such music.

And, in this way, my pen, as if by magic, gives voice to the songs of my soul; songs sung freely, in strength and energy, power and feeling, love and life, in words pouring out from me in such abundance, freely, fluidly, dreamily, joyfully, ecstatically, eternally. And so I write, then, as a man in trance; as a man possessed by his ideas; as a man obsessed with giving vivid life to the creatures of his imagination. And it’s such a source of joy, this process. For I love words. And I love working with words. Indeed, I have often the feeling that I am dancing with words, playing with words, delighting in words. And certainly I delight in writing stories. And the words for these stories come so easily to me. For words always come so easily to me. And my writing flows without effort: it is fluid … And always I let myself go, and go with the flow of my spontaneous thoughts and ideas. And always I go with the flow of my inspiration. And always I go with the flow. I go with the flow of the ink. And in this way I am always writing. I am always, always, always, always writing. For write I must. Write. Indeed, I absolutely must write, right now. Right. And five pages a day, more or less, at least. 10 words; 100; 500; 1,000; 10,000. No matter. For I absolutely must get all these words down on paper. I must write, right now. And I shall write, right now. And I will, write now. Write!

And yes, I can, and I must.

And I must write, right now.

Five pages a day, every single day.

And it’s simply a habit for me to write these five pages a day; I cannot help but do so.

A writing ritual … rites of passage, writes of passing … time.

And the time is always now …

For, while action without vision is a nightmare, vision without action is a daydream …

And you: you move easily, effortlessly, intuitively, now, from thought, to action.

And you have the courage of your convictions.

And you look always to real goals; goals that you are actively in the process of achieving, right now.

And in this way I simply love to set myself new goals.

And I love then to achieve these goals.

And, as all your goals are immediate and achievable, you shall achieve them all, immediately, or as good as immediately, because …

NOW is the time …

To move easily, effortlessly, intuitively …

From thought, to action.

And you know now that you are fulfilling your dreams.

And you know now, too, that these dreams are like your passport to the world, and with them you shall travel as far as they may take you.

And these dreams are like my passport to the world, and with them I shall travel as far as they may take me.

For I wish simply to go as far as I can, and shall …

Becoming more and more deeply relaxed with every word.

And more and more deeply relaxed.

And I have the courage of my convictions.

The power of belief.

And my self-esteem is strong.

And I love and respect myself.

And I know, too, that the thoughts and images that I project out into the world shall soon become my reality.

And I express my true potential.

And I love being successful.

And I deserve to be successful.

And being successful is just a habit to me: it’s a positive state of mind that comes to me easily and naturally. And it’s something that I expect and know that I deserve.

And I am in charge of my life.

And am fully in control of my life now.

And I know, too, that I deserve to be happy and successful in every part of my life. And I always enjoy the present moment. And I always enjoy the moment NOW; for the time is always NOW, for transforming thoughts, into actions, and making it all come true …

And for finding, discovering, revealing, and sounding your voice;

And for using your voice, and for expressing yourself;

And for knowing your own mind;

And for showing strength of mind;

And for demonstrating great character;

And for always speaking your mind, very clearly, and very directly, and very simply, and straightforwardly, saying …

Be quiet, then, be still, and listen: hear what I have to say.

For this, after all, is my vocation.

To learn to read and to write.

And to understand, that …

I have the right to speak my mind.

And I enjoy, too, the right to write, and to write, right now.

Speaking my mind, and writing out and describing my views of the world, and my world’s (and world) view.

For I am a writer: I write.

I write: that’s what I do.

That’s what I am.

That’s who I am.

As well I know.

And do now begin, then, now, to start freeing up all of your energy, my friend, and to start freeing up, too, all of your thoughts and ideas, your words, and your language, so as simply to let the writing begin again, and to let the ink just flow.

And so let’s just get the words down on the page now, shall we; all right?

And simply write it all down.

Let’s go.

And with every word that you write you find that you are leaping higher and higher into the clear blue sky of your boundless imagination. And in this way you set your imagination completely free; you let your imagination fly; and you fly with it, happy and free; for you love the feeling of freedom that flying gives you; and you simply love to fly; and you love to fly so high that at last your ears “pop”, and are open, completely open, as you are, boundless, eternal, and free. And you shall listen to me carefully now: for here you will hear the movement of the mind in music, the songs of the soul, the hymns of the heavens, the great harmony, and the great symphony, of celestial revelation. And you are completely absorbed in this music, singing: I am a feather on the breath of God! I can walk behind the sky!

(And in sky’s river, I sometimes swim.)

And for what, then, are you seeking?

The infinite, fathomless blue of bliss …

And all these thoughts, so many thoughts, like soft white clouds, drifting gently across a beautiful clear blue summer sky …

And your thoughts, too, drifting by, like dreams …

Your thoughts, your feelings, your offerings, your sufferings, your impulses, your intuitions, your gifts.

And I am so free now: I am so absolutely fearless and free.

And my breath flows so easily. I breathe so easily. And inspiration flows into me, and out from me, so effortlessly, and easily …

And the body … opens … and the mind … opens … like a flower that moves towards the light …

And you are the dawn above the ocean.

A radiant aura, a play of light, a sunbeam, asking:

What, then, do you have, that you did not first receive?

And relax then, now, my friend, let go; and receive again, and in gratitude, know joy …

For every second, every moment, in your life, you are accruing new experience, new knowledge, and new wisdom.

Yes; I know that.

And yes, I’m looking forward to that. And I’m excited about that. And I am feeling so very open and receptive now. And I am curious and questioning. And I want to learn.

And remember, too – yes, I remember, too – that this is not only how you think, this is really how you are, how you exist. This playful openness and curiosity form your very identity. For remember, too – and yes, I remember, too – that you have learnt and experienced something new in every moment of your life.

And yes, that’s true: yes of course, that’s true. And yes, I remember.

I remember.

I remember.

And I easily remember everything that I have ever experienced …

I remember when …

I remember with whom …

I remember how …

I remember why …

I remember in what way …

And I remember with what feeling …

And I remember everything.

And I remember everything up to and including this present moment, where I am, right now.

And in your mind, then, you will always be clear, above all, that the time is always now …

And in that now, then … this moment, now … I want you slowly to retrace your steps … coming back along the same journey you took to come to this place … and with every step that you take … on this journey back … mentally counting up from 1 to 10 … you will feel ever more and more energized … and you will feel light and positive … and you will feel alert and clear … and you will listen to the sound of my voice … saying, follow me, then … for I am the sound of your voice … and I am your vocation, your genius, your inspiration, your spirit, your soul … and listen to me sing, and sing, so beautifully … and be transported by that music … the song of your soul, singing … saying … singing … come with me, follow me … for I am the sound of your voice, the song of your soul … and you shall always follow me, for I am your guide, your life breath … and I shall always go with you … taking you to the very ends of the earth … and listen to me now … for the sound of my voice shall always be with you … distinct among all the many sounds and other voices that naturally you will hear … and that include, of course, the other sounds that you are hearing now … the sounds that you can hear around you now, in this present moment … as you are more and more aware of where you are now … in this present moment … and this present moment becoming now clearer … sharper … and the light becoming brighter … as you return from your trance … and as you become so aware of your body, now … and your hands, just lightly in contact … and your world … so vivid … and real … and the slight breeze that breathes gently on your skin … your face … and every breath you take bringing you back to … this time … this room … this place … here and now … and to be ready, then, now, either for your dreaming night or, as the case may be, for the rest of your day … so that, as the case may be, either you count down from ten, so that on one you drift into a deep, blissful sleep, from which you will wake in the morning, at 3, feeling extraordinarily positive, and refreshed, and creative, and inspired, or else you will count up from one, at once, so that on ten, your eyes will open wide and you will be wide awake, enjoying a feeling of blissful well-being all over … and the future simply opening up, in either case, like a path, before you … and it’s so exciting, and so extraordinary … and it’s your path, my friend … this is your path, too … in beauty … bliss … and blue …

VIII.

Blue.

Blue, the universal love in which man bathes – the terrestrial paradise.

Hanging from your tree of life, even so, are leaves that appear to yellow.

Life has the name of life, but in reality it is death.

And the messengers of death are waiting.

And you are going to travel far, my friend; but have you made provision for this journey?

For this reason, no need to feel self-satisfaction, for the victory has not yet been won. And it’s not by mere morals or rituals, by much learning or high concentration, or by a bed of solitude, that one can reach that joy of freedom that is rarely reached by those of the world, if ever.

But know, nevertheless, that whoever in this world overcomes his selfish cravings, his sorrows shall surely fall away from him, one by one, like drops of water from a lotus flower.

For sweet it is to enjoy a lifelong virtue; and a pure firm faith is sweet. It is sweet to attain wisdom; and to be free from sin, similarly, is sweet.

Leave, then, the past behind; leave the future behind; and leave the present behind. For then thou art ready to go to the other shore.

And never more shalt thou return to a life that ends in death.

Empty the boat of your life, then, O man; for when empty it will sail so swiftly.

And I say to you this:

People die, and are born –
Whence they come, and where they go, I do not know.
Nor do I understand the transitory homes they build.
For whom do they fret themselves?
And what can be so pleasing to the eye?
A house and its master are like the dew that gathers on the morning glory.
Which will be the first to pass?
Sometimes the dew falls away while the flowers stay.
But they will surely all wilt, in any case, in the morning sun.
And sometimes the flower shrivels while the dew holds on.
But it will not outlive the day.

The flowing river never stops and yet the water never stays the same.
Foam floats upon the pools, scattering, re-forming, and never lingering long.
So it is with man and all his dwelling places here on earth.

And we know, of course, that all things that come into being must also pass away; cut, then, your fetters, and overcome the world.

And look, rather, for the inner path by which to cross the river of time and to lose yourself in the pathless ways of supreme contemplation, discovering in this way, little by little, that joy that is the joy of the everlasting Infinite …

And learn to be a welcome guest in the dwelling of your body, so as to live, and die, with dignity.

For yes, I am ready now. And I am prepared to die. And I am ready to die.

And then a monk asks Master Ummon, “What will happen when the trees wither and the leaves fall?” And Ummon replies, “The Golden Wind will blow”.

And sometimes you too may experience and come to know and feel the storms that beat these rocky cliffs; falling frost fetters the earth, the harbinger of winter; then darkness comes, and night shadows deepen; from the north there comes a rough hailstorm in malice against men. And indeed, all sometimes seem troublesome in this earthly kingdom; and the constant turning of events changes this world beneath the heavens. Here money is fleeting; here friend is fleeting; here man is fleeting; here kinsman is fleeting; and all the foundation of this world, turned to waste!

So spake the wise man in his mind, and from where he sat apart, in counsel.

And good is he who keeps his faith … and a hero must act with courage … this we know.

And life goes better for he who seeks mercy and consolation from the father in heaven – the heavens above – seat of all permanence.

And by day the sun shines, and by night shines the moon. The warrior shines in his armour, and the Brahmin priest in his meditation. And he who is powerful, noble, who lives a life of inner heroism, the all-seer, the all-conqueror, the ever-pure, who has reached the end of the journey, and who is awake – him I call a Brahmin. But the Buddha himself shines by day and by night – in the brightness of his glory shines the man who is awake.

And greed and apathy and an idle bed
Have caused all virtue to fly from the world;
Our deepest natures have been almost killed
By stifling habit, their old ways conquered.

And every light of hope is so extinguished
From heaven, to which our human life we yield,
That who would make a rivulet that swirled
Down Helicon’s side, is laughed at and scorned.

What aching for laurels? Lust for myrtle?
“Naked and poor you go, Philosophy”,
The crowds all say, being bent on sordid gain.
Few friends with you you’ll have along that way;

So much the more I pray to you, gentle
Spirit: do not turn back from this your task’s burden.

And still the tree sways, the breeze blowing through the branches, whispering such sweet songs, of distant, far away places, and people, cherished, and dear, and love’s longing, when suddenly, unexpectedly, I hear, too, the song of the leaves, falling.

And I strove with none, I say, for none was worth my strife.
Nature I loved and, next to nature, art:
I warmed both hands before the fire of life:
It burns now low, and I am ready to depart.

And think of it in this way, then, if you will: but a record of this floating life, this fleeting world; and as you cross a bridge of dreams, to follow the narrow road to the deep north, as if a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, a dewdrop, a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, the wings of a shadow, a phantom, and a dream, are you, is life.

Anaesthesia.

Amnesia.

And a lifetime of experience … of remembering … to let go … and almost as if to abandon yourself … and to fall away … and to forget … as if, entering, now, the zone … entering the end zone … entering the dead zone …

And listen, now.

(Ambrosia, the sweet elixir of life: can you taste it upon your lips?)

And, do you hear?

Yes!

And yes. And yes. And yes.

And in the words of Albert Einstein: “A human being is a part of a whole, called by us a ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest … a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

“And when he sees me in all and sees all in me,
Then I never leave him and he never leaves me.
And he, who in this oneness of love
Loves me in whatever he sees,
Wherever this man may live,
In truth, he lives in me … “
(Bhagavad Gita)

“Place your burden
At the feet of the Lord of the Universe
Who accomplishes everything.
Remain all the time steadfast in the heart,
In the Transcendental Absolute.
God knows the past, present and future.
And He will determine the future for you
And accomplish the work.
And what is to be done will be done.
At the proper time. Don’t worry.
Abide in the heart and surrender all your acts to the divine.”
(Ramani Maharshi)

And the poet never rests, says Borges.
He’s always working, even when he dreams.
Besides, the life of a writer is a lonely one.
You think you are alone, and as the years go by, if the stars are on your side, you may discover that you are in fact at the centre of a vast circle of invisible friends who you will never get to know but who love you. And that is an immense reward.

And what, then, is success?

To laugh often, and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better, whether by a happy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life breathed easier because you have lived; this, then, is to have succeeded, or so, at least, thought Ralph Waldo Emerson.

And “Success is to be measured not so much by the position one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which one has overcome in trying to succeed”, says Booker T Washington.

And on quiet nights I recall the faces and warm smiles of friends, it’s true, while looking at the moon, through the window.
And I listen for their voices.

And I hear, too, in time, the voices of all my family and friends, confidantes and lovers, acquaintances, colleagues, companions, passers-by, fellow travellers, wanderers, seekers, and everyone I have ever met, indeed, or spoken to, and everyone I have ever listened to or read, and everyone I have ever known, or will know, some day.

Saying:

Love is life that lasts forever.

Such that, hoping always to be someone open and generous in spirit, and in love, my heart’s memory turns now to you, and all my thoughts go out to you, my dearly beloved, saying: I love you. And I am sorry. Please forgive me. And thank you.

(This floating life, and this fleeting world; and it’s as if you simply crossed a bridge of dreams to follow the narrow road to the deep north, and once there, you saw, a star at dawn, and a bubble in a stream, and a dewdrop, and a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, and a flickering lamp, and the wings of a shadow, like a phantom, and all this, and you, too, but a beautiful dream, this life.)

Friendship, company, guidance, warmth, love.
Perhaps a husband, or a wife – or several!
Perhaps a daughter.
Perhaps a son.
Or both.
Perhaps a brother.
Perhaps a sister.
A father.
A mother.
And a mother’s voice …
And another’s voice …
Becoming a murmur, and then a stream, and then at last a great river of voices, to the ocean, flowing: listen …

(Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.)

And do you hear me, now?

And do you see, at last?

And do you understand?

In inhalation.

In exhalation.

And give, and receive.

All people, in relation, one, to another.

And plants, flowers, trees, in relation, one, to another.

And animals, in relation, one, to another.

And all things, in relation …

(One)

And looking always … there, here … for the relation between … the relation … to … and … the … relationship …

Relating one thing to another as if to form again a family bond.

And making connections, in this way.

And making sense, in this way.

And in this way making it all make sense, and seem familiar; and sounds sensible, doesn’t it?

And I think it sounds good, too.

And I think it sounds true.

And, in any case, it sounds harmonious; and it sounds harmonious, above all; for when each element is in its proper place, each note is a true note.

And so, according to me …

Tout est d’accord.

And I know you agree.

And that, to me; well, that’s music to my ears.

And know, then, too, that all your ancestors, your family, your friends, and everyone you have ever known and loved, are all here, now, in this present moment, present with you, accompanying you, still, and always, these dear voices, the living and the dead. (Shinto.) Only connect, then, for it’s all about love, apparently; love, and understanding; and if I’ve understood only one thing, then, of life, it’s this, it’s only this, and that I’ve understood, saying: I love you; I’m sorry; please forgive me; and thank you.

And you know, of course, that there are extraordinary people everywhere: go look for them, then, go find them, and learn from them, by example, so as, hopefully, to become, one day, one of them, yourself.

And rejoice, then, for he who knows the Truth
Knows that bliss begets bliss.
And if you can drink of life’s bitterness and laugh in the face of adversity,
In your soul no bitterness will remain.
And arise, then, for the Beloved has arrived.
He who has stolen a thousand hearts.
In drunken ecstasy, he has come with drum in hand,
To lift the veil and reveal to you his song.
Rejoice, then, for he who knows Truth
Knows that bliss begets bliss.
And today arrives as witness to the long journey behind it,
So have mercy, my friend, for a seeker must travel far in search of truth.

But still, what a journey, and what an extraordinary journey!

And the true pilgrim finds the words to express himself, in any case; and his feet follow faithfully his thoughts, and words.

And, as the great Nicolas Bouvier observed, and as you yourself know now full well, a journey does not need reasons. Before long, it proves to be reason enough in itself. One thinks that one is going to make a journey, yet soon it is the journey itself that makes or unmakes you. And keep in mind, of course, that if one does not accord the journey the right to destroy you, at least a little, then you may as well stay at home. For a voyage is like a shipwreck, and those whose boat has never sunk will never know anything about the sea.

And you know, too, that into each life some rain must fall. And some days must be dark and dreary, so that the light, when it comes again, can be fully appreciated, and enjoyed.

And give me a ticket, then, for absolutely as far as I can go.

I am ready.

And henceforth you shall seek another elsewhere, that reveals not its name, and perhaps neither in other whispers, nor on other plains, so that you must, lighter than a thistle, disappear, then, there, into silence, my friend, and in this way return, as if inside, out, once more, to the winds of the road.

And Unsui, you are – like clouds, like water… an itinerant, mendicant monk … constantly on the move, but without any particular or apparent direction … and like clouds, and like water.

And where you go then is simply to wherever your fancy takes you, and to wherever the winds blow …

For you are free, radically free; is it not so?

And you know, too, that your heart cannot, finally, be won … not by me, and not by anyone …

And your soul is restless, but its burden cannot be revealed;
For this reason, alone, I remain silent.

And yet, whenever you are standing there before me
My eyes fill with tears of joy that cannot flow,
Like an ocean that stands still
At the sight of you.

Asking:

What if this present

Were the world’s last night?

Saying:
Come, then, Beloved; for today may be our last.
And, like the brief, ephemeral moments of a flower’s bloom, it will fade.
For tomorrow nothing may remain of me, my heart, or this world,
And if your love’s perfect radiance reveals itself, as it does, now, today; well, what more?

And in the setting sun your love now fades
Dies in the moonlight
And fails to rise.

And listen to me, too, or don’t listen, no matter: it may in any case be nonsense … or sound so, at least, to you … “for the spirits of seafarers rarely bring back much in the way of known speech … “

And I am rambling again, it’s true; so typical of such a restless, nervous fellow, with itchy feet; a vagabond, a wayfarer, a wanderer.

For always I had, just alone, to speak of my troubles, each morning, before the dawn.

What hope for me?

(The solitary only finds grace, in any case, in the mercy of the Lord; is it not so?)

And yet still, and yet now – and now above all – I must be clear; for time is of the essence now; and I wish now to be entirely sharp and to the point. And I wish at last to make some sense. And do I, my friend; do I? And can you at last make out some sense of all this nonsense? And can you at last make some sense of it all?

Think about it again, then; take your time.

Saying: Blue.

And Blue transcends the solemn geography of human limits.
And the blood of sensibility, too, is blue.
And I consecrate myself, then, to you …
And to finding your most perfect expression …
Now.
Still now …

And still now, as my pen chases these words across the page, tossed this way and that in a storm of feelings, and emotions, and windswept thoughts, and memories, still now, and …

And I have stayed, of course, for as long as I possibly could.

And now I have stayed quite long enough; it’s time to go.

My room.

My thinking room.
My reading room.
My writing room.

And I fill this room with the echo of many voices
Who passed time here
Voices unlocked from the blue of the long dried paint
Until the sun comes and floods this empty room
My room
I call it my room
And my room has welcomed many summers
Embraced laughter and tears
And can it fill itself with your laughter?
Each word a sunbeam
Glancing in the light
Singing,
This is the song of My Room.

And there I have walked behind the sky.
Asking: for what are you seeking?
And the answer I give:
The infinite, fathomless blue of Bliss.

Blue.

And then again, Blue stretches, yawns, and is awake.

And one can know the whole world
Without stirring abroad
Without looking out of the window
One can see the way of heaven.

And so imagine, then, this: that if only the doors of perception were cleansed … well, then everything would be seen as it is.
And in beauty, bliss.

And so it is, that in the pandemonium of image
I present, you, then, with the universal Blue

Blue, an open door to soul
An infinite possibility
Becoming tangible

And listen, then, now, to the drip of the tap that ticks out the seconds, the source of a stream along which the minutes flow, to join the river of hours, the sea of years, and the timeless ocean.

And try, then, of course, not to lose or to squander any more of your time.

For old age is coming and youth is slowly slipping away.
And where have the days of our lives now gone?
For tomorrow, others’ lips will recount the very tale
That we ourselves try to tell today.

And the world is but a playhouse.
He who perceives this ranges amongst the most wise.
On the surface we live our lives and go about our way,
But in the depths of our souls still we remain always estranged.

And the darkness, too, like the night, comes in, now, with the tide,
And I can feel it drawing nearer, and getting closer,
As the year slips on the calendar
And your kiss flares
A match struck in the night
Flares and dies
My slumber broken
Saying:
Kiss me again
Kiss me
Kiss me again
And again
Never enough
Greedy lips
Speedwell eyes
Blue skies

And asking: do you then remember?

(And this dream, once so vivid, so full of life.)

Yes.

Yes, I remember.

I remember everything.

And I remember, too, that it’s going to be tomorrow, then, perhaps, at sunrise.
Or tonight, even, beneath the warmth, becoming weak, turning pale, of the setting sun.
Or now, indeed, this very minute.

And I remember, too, to make the bed,
And to open the windows to air the place,
And to scrub the floors,
And to do the washing up.

And all this even as the ages and the aeons quit this, my room
Exploding into timelessness
And no more entrances or exits
And no need now for obituaries or final judgements
And even then, and even still then, I remember.

Saying: come on, then; let’s … let’s sing and dance … let’s hold hands, and kiss, and cuddle … and let’s make love, even, for that one last time … and if not that, then let’s sit down and smoke a sublime cigar, perhaps, or drink a fine wine … and share again a smile, and a laugh … and tell again, all over again, these same tall tales …

And saying simply: here I am, then, Death, old chap, old friend; and take me when you will, and do with me as you will; because still I shall have the final satisfaction, at least, of knowing that, for all the tricksy old devil that you are, mine shall be the laughter at the last, and at the end. For I’ve been waiting for you from the outset, you old bastard; and I’ve been waiting for you from the very beginning, more or less. And I’ve known full well, from the beginning, more or less, that life without you is simply bewildering, confusing, directionless, meaningless. And I’ve known, too, of course, from the beginning, more or less, that one fine day my time, too, would come, and come, then, to an end, at the last. And I am at peace, then, with that, and with you, my dear friend. My life, and death.

IX.

And so I sit one last time at my desk, turning to my papers and to my pen, to put pen to paper, and to write my final will, and testament, noting down, in brief, fleeting lines, all that has happened to me, here, and all that I saw and felt, and heard and smelt, and all that I touched and savoured, tasted, and enjoyed, discovered, and learnt, loved, and lost, imagined, and created, read, and wrote, and all words that themselves will one day be lost, or erased, or simply forgotten, I suppose, as I shall be too, no doubt; all lost, that is, but for the irony, perhaps, not only of this weak laughter, and dying smile, but of these words themselves that in summary could be read, then, perhaps, quite simply, as follows:

I was here too, you know
Over committed on all fronts
The candle burning always at both ends
A night
A day
Now night, again

And what a night, and day
Of beauty, I saw there …
And adored,
And simply adored,
And simply adored.

And see, there, the shadow of the flames flickering upon the cave wall, still.

And in the night, telling stories …

And stories, simply so extraordinary, and so magical, and so transformative.

And what a joy it all was
Or much of it, let’s say.
Or some of it, at least.

You know how it is.

And you know, too, and full well, don’t you, that we all of us begin to die from the very moment that we are born.

And so try simply to relax then, again, quite simply, my friend: and go forward, and do your best, and try simply to enjoy yourself now, again, and still more so, if you can …

And then, and only then, and as if it were the close of a long day of action in the battlefield, take action once again: and go for a walk or a swim, take a bath, make some tea, and relax; letting time simply wash over you, now, if you can, and letting everything go now, if you can and, as the old song goes, letting go of all your troubles, and your strife …

And imagine, then, if you can:

Pearl fishers
In azure seas
Deep waters
Washing the isle of the dead
In coral harbours
Amphora
Spill
Gold
Across the still seabed
And there we all are
Fanned by the billowing sails of forgotten ships
Tossed by the mournful winds
Of the deep
And lost souls
Sleep forever
Cheek to cheek
In dear embrace
Salt lips touching
In submarine gardens
Cool marble fingers
Shell sounds
Whisper
Deep love drifting on the tide forever
And bliss in my ghostly eye
So kiss me, then.
Kiss me on the lips
On the eyes
Our names will be forgotten
In time
No one will remember our work
And our life will pass like the traces of a cloud
And be scattered like
Mist that is chased by the rays of the sun
For our time is the passing of a shadow, my friend.
And our lives will run like
Sparks through the stubble.

Nicolas Bouvier again: on that day, he says, I thought that I was in possession of something important and that my life would be changed forever. But nothing of this nature is acquired definitively. Like water, the world traverses you, and for a while, lends you its colours. It then draws back, leaving you once again to face the emptiness that one carries in oneself, and to face that central insufficiency of the spirit that one must learn to live with, to fight, and which, paradoxically, is possibly our surest driving force.

And faith, too, is a myth, and beliefs shift like mists on the shore; thoughts vanish; words, once pronounced, die; and the memory of yesterday is as shadowy as the hope of tomorrow. And in this world, as I have known it, we are made to suffer without the shadow of a reason, or of a cause, or of guilt. There is no morality, no knowledge, and often there is no hope, even; there is only the consciousness of ourselves which drives us about a world that is always but a vain and floating appearance. A moment, a twinkling of an eye, and nothing remains: nothing but a clod of mud, that is, of cold mud, of dead mud cast into black space, rolling around a dead earth and an extinguished sun,.or so it sometimes seems, at least. Nothing. Neither thought, nor sound, nor soul. Only nothing. Quite simply.

And I tell you: may God then bless the magic, and the mystery, of this great journey, this odyssey, this Odysseus, this Ulysses, this no name, nameless one, this one who knows, and knows no idea, anymore, no thing, no one; and letting it all go, then, letting it all fly free, at last, and letting it all fly far, far away, and free as the wind itself, and you along with it, my friend, like a feather on the breath of God, floating upon the starry river of the sky, in the fathomless blue of bliss, and repeating after me, like an echo, that:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff as dreams are made on,
And our little life is rounded with a sleep.

And you depart, and set off. Then suddenly you arrive, you reach your destination. And how did you get there? You do not know. A mystery. And then, just as suddenly, you must leave again.

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

And so it were, perhaps …
As if death, too, were but a moment, no more real or enduring than the rest of human experience and not an end but rather a beginning again, a starting afresh, and a turning of the page …
Remembering and forgetting.
Birth and rebirth.

And what an extraordinary idea!

So write it down …

Now, straight away, at once, immediately, saying simply:

I love you. I love you. I love you.

And I say it again and again: I love you, life.

For love, surely, is life’s purest and most perfect prayer.

Count it, then, your love; and count it up, and down, your love; like so many beads upon a rosary, upon a mala.

108, let’s say.

And powerful prayers, sound true, or so they say.

So bless the earth you’re standing on.
Complete that which you’ve left undone, and left unsaid.
And begin to look at yourself as if through eyes of an angel; pilgrim soul.

And these, then, are my last words. I articulate them now, in advance, to hear how they may sound and to see them written down, and to see how they look, on the page, and to wonder, of course, if one day, perhaps, I shall live up to them, these, my words, my thoughts, my ideas.

And think of it this way, if you will.

Inspiration; such inspiration!

And listen: what you hear here, now, is the sound of the waves, washing away my tears, and there the sound of the wind, my memory.

And Prospero, again:
To the dread rattling thunder
Have I given fire and rifted Jove’s stout oak
With his own bolt; the strong-based promontory
Have I made shake and by the spurs pluck’d up
The pine and cedar: graves at my command
Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let ‘em forth
By my so potent art. But this rough magic
I here abjure.
I’ll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And, deeper than did ever plummet sound,
I’ll drown my book.

And the end follows on, then, from the beginning, okay; but where, finally, at the last, will it fall?

And still then, and even then, you know perfectly well that nothing is ever fully complete, that nothing ever comes completely to an end, and that nothing is ever definitive, perfectly finished, and final, forever. For all is movement, change, flux, and flow. Relax, then, for now, and let it go, for as you know full well, this moment … is but a drop in the ocean … and as you know full well, you are doing your best … and as you know full  well … still now … you are doing your very best, just as you have always done your very best, and just as that very best has always been just great, and that, as you know full well … well, that … that’s it … the end … and how fine.

And listen.

For my voice goes on with you, still, still now: weak, breathless, at the last, last breath, yes, it’s true; yet all this, all that, is still but a beginning, somehow, as if a new and fresh beginning; fear not.

And time lays now as if suspended. And in this graceful arrangement of echoes, reflections, and coloured, dancing shadows, there is a sovereign, fleeting perfection and a music that at last, again, I recognize. It is the lyre of Orpheus, or perhaps the flute of Krishna, that I hear; and it’s surely the same sound that resonates when the world appears in its original transparency and simplicity. And he who hears it once, as now, recovers from its beauty, never.

Bright eyes, blazing out, turning suddenly pale, fading away, burnt out.

Earth to earth. Dust to dust. Ashes to ashes.

And burn yourself up, then, my friend; do not be afraid but rather be consumed anew, by the great strength and intensity of your passion for life.

(And facing your fears, be free.)

And you know full well, by now, that the night seems most dark, and most desolate, only moments before the dawn, when for a moment the silence sounds total, like the silence at the song’s end. And then, all of a sudden, as if by magic, there is light, again. And so even when the night has overcome you, or so it seems, you may yet rise up to see again the sun, as now, for example, so that, surely, you are rising up again, even now, as a phoenix from the flames, rises up, and takes wing, so that you too shall once more take wing, and fly, and fly away, and flying far, far, far away, forever and a day, be gone.

Death and resurrection.
Or reincarnation, perhaps.
Heaven, hell, or purgatory.
Perhaps Paradise!

Words, so many words.

Says Tolstoy:
“All will pass, money, large estates, even kingdoms are doomed to vanish. But if there is only one grain of true art in our work, it will live on, forever.”

This day’s work, nevertheless, is now done, all done.

And this, then, for today, the final point: the full stop, and the end of the line.

And may this very last thought then put out the light, saying: lights out, please; please extinguish all your lights.

For tomorrow is another day.

Tomorrow, another day; and, perhaps, another, another’s day.

And for now, in any case, we must keep watch, and keep awake, and be ready … and … be here now … for as long as we possibly can … until then, at last, we find, our sleep …

So pray, then, one more time.
Say your prayers, giving praise, for this long day, magnificent.
For it’s bedtime, now.

Praying:
Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in thy mercy, please grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last.

And do not feel alone.
Feel all one.

And be still; be still, now.

And rest, in inner peace.

Enlightenment.

And understanding.

Sound in mind, and body.

And in tune; and in harmony.

Softly spoken, warm hearted, and like a gentle human creature.

And so I say to you:

Abide in: …

Satori.
Enlightenment.
Nirvana.
Heaven.

And for what, then, still, are you seeking?

For the infinite, fathomless blue, of bliss.

And I too may now seem to you far, far away, it’s true.

Weak, distant.
So soft, so quiet.

But listen again.

And listen, still.

For still my voice reaches out to you; do you not hear it?

(Yes; yes, I hear you).

And fear not, then, my friend, for my voice will go on with you, wherever you shall find yourself; and surely my voice shall travel on with you, forever.

For my voice shall soon be your voice, just as your voice has now been mine.

And tears of such joy flow forth from my mind’s eye, like flowers in blossom, or glittering diamonds, or so many stars in the night sky …

And shall I be gone long?
Forever and a day.
To whom there belong?
Ask the stone to say.
Ask my song.

And so I place, finally, a delphinium, Blue, upon your grave, saying:

In the end is my beginning.

The infinite, fathomless, Blue of Bliss.

And mind how you go now; fare well.

 

© Bede Nix, 2018. All rights reserved.

ETYMOLOGIES OF A NAME - BEDE NIX

BEDE

Alternative forms: bead
Pronunciation: (UK) IPA(key): /biːd/

Etymology 1
From Middle English bēde (“prayer, request, supplication, order, command, rosary, bead”), from Old English gebed (“prayer, petition, supplication, religious service, an ordinance”), from Proto-Germanic *bedą (“prayer, entreaty”). Cognate with Dutch gebed and bede, German Gebet.

Noun
bede (plural bedes or beden)
prayer, request, supplication quotations
2011, Where Did Beaded Flowers Come From?:Because of the length of the original rosary, it became customary to pay someone, usually a resident of an almshouse, to recite the prayers. These people were referred to as bede women or men, and it was they who made the first bead flowers.
order, command
rosary

Etymology 2
From Middle English bēden (“to pray, offer, proffer, request, demand, order, command, forbid; proclaim, declare; present, counsel, advise, exhort”), from Old English bēodian (“to command, decree, summon, banish, declare, inform, announce, proclaim; threaten, offer, proffer, give, grant, surrender”), from Proto-Germanic *beudaną, from Proto-Indo-European *bʰewdʰ-. Germanic cognates include Old Frisian biada, Old Saxon biodan (Low German beden), Dutch bieden, Old High German biotan (German bieten), Old Norse bjóða (Swedish bjuda (“command, show”)), Gothic *?????? (*biudan) (attested in compounds). The Indo-European root is also the source of Ancient Greek πευθεσθαι (peuthesthai, “ask for”), Sanskrit बोधयित (bodhayita, “wake”), Old Church Slavonic бъдети (bŭdeti) (Russian будить (budit’, “wake”)), Lithuanian budeti (“awake”).

Source: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/bede

NIX

pronoun nothing.
– ORIGIN German, colloquial variant of nichts ‘nothing’.

Source: Oxford English Dictionary

EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST – BEDE NIX

Dear Friend,

I am a poet and storyteller who wishes you to feel welcome and at home in my words; at the same time, I seek your support and encouragement.

A selection of my writing and reading can be found here, at: www.bedenix.com

Among the words that you may find there is a self-description that reads as follows:

I am someone who devotes time, when time there is, to wondering about the world, in words. I try to take note of what I see and of what I hear and of what I taste and sense and feel, and of what I think about all this, by way of reaction. I try, too, to take note of what I have come to know and of what I have yet to learn. I write out these notes in words, in notebooks. And then I read these notebooks almost as musical notation, listening for the harmony … I try to make some sense of my written-out world.

And elsewhere I make the following invitation to friends and readers:

If you would like me to write to you, or for you, or for us to think something through together, using different perspectives, mirrors, and reflections, and perhaps working things out, perhaps not, or if you would like that together we turn out thoughts to someone, and to hold that person dear, or if perhaps you would like to commission a specific text from me, some thoughts, in word, from me, to you, thinking things through, or even if it’s only, even only (never lonely), for us, simply, to find, some time (time), to sit quietly, together, in thought, and presence, then do please write, and do please write, and please write to me, and write to me, write now, at: info@bedenix.com

My hope is that you yourself will also decide to write to me now, and to share with me your inspiration as to how best to encourage and to develop this, our shared writing life, shared words, shared labour of the imagination, shared adventure of the mind, shared journey, shared day in the sunlight, shared human heart, and shared humanity.

And so I ask you: what is your reaction to these words?

What is your feeling?

Would you like to join other readers in becoming a sponsor, a patron, a fellow traveller, a friend?

Could you help me to cover certain of my basic living costs so as to encourage and allow me to liberate time and resources for further reading, further reflection, and further writing?

Or could we collaborate on a shared project, and work together?

Or are you inspired simply to teach me in some way, and to share with me your knowledge and experience? Or would you prefer that I come to you, to teach, and to learn?

Shall we talk?

Yes?

Okay, then; that’s excellent.

Thank you.

I am glad that we are now in contact, and look forward to hearing from you very soon.

Until then, I wish you insight, inspiration, and many moments of quiet happiness, and great joy.

All good things to you,
Bede Nix

© Bede Nix, October 2017. All rights reserved.

DISCLAIMER AND COPYRIGHT

Hildegard von Bingen describes her inspiration in this way:

“I spoke and wrote these things not by the invention of my heart or that of any other person, but as by the secret mysteries … [that] I heard and received … in the heavenly places. And … I heard a voice … from Heaven … saying to me, ‘Cry out therefore, and write thus!’”

For my part (who me?), I’ve little or no idea from where these [my] words are harvested and gathered.

Nor am I even sure of how a word should be read at all at times.

I am rarely sure of when a word should be read as literally true or when as a leap of the imagination, and when a word should be understood as fact, and when as fiction, and when a memory is reliable, and when not. And the same doubts exist for me with regard to the mind that may claim to contain such memories, and with regard to the person who may claim to be the owner or the author or the identity of such a mind. Who is that person, actually?

Who me?

And who are you, for that matter?

But then, what do any of us truly know and understand of our “reality”?

Isn’t it all in some sense a reading of the mind?

(And isn’t there always something mysterious, unfathomable, unreachable?)

Who are you?

And who me?

It’s all in some sense a fiction, isn’t it?

And a little like a dream.

And therefore the names, the characters, the places, the events, and all the myriad incidents described in these [my] fabricated mosaic of patched together words are either entirely the products of this make believe author’s disturbed imagination or else persons, places, and events, seemingly real, but used in a way so as to render that seeming reality entirely fictitious, such that any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual places, standing or in ruins, or to actual events, contemporaneous or historical, is little more than the play of chance; it’s purely coincidental.

What I (who he/she?) do know with confidence (faith), is that even a collection of words that on their surface may be read as fiction or “merely” story may in their depths possess a resonance of meaning whose force may be experienced and known as luminously meaningful, in words profoundly true when read by the opened human heart, and of a power that may at the same time open one’s eyes, ears, hands, arms, mind, and do so rudely, all at once, as in a blink of realization, and awareness.

(Be opened, human heart).

And words collected here on this website [my] [words] are words written entirely in a personal capacity, as one specific example within a great variety of human person, and just that one who, in essays, in thinking, recalls freedom, in considered thought, speech, and action, and one who, modestly exercising a basic human freedom of expression, evolves hopefully to be a human person a little more expansive, in heart, and mind, and a little more generous, and forgiving, and understanding, in his thinking, and his words, and his actions, and all this evolution perhaps to some purpose and benefit.

And if sometimes, very occasionally, I succeed in these [my] words to express some truth or wisdom it is thanks only and always to the example, instruction, and guidance of my teachers. But when I err – as more often than not I do – I err entirely alone, under my own misguided responsibility. And on those many latter occasions, when I find myself again in error, I would beg you, please be patient with me, and forgiving. Please help me to develop a clearer understanding.

Sometimes the things that you might think would go without saying are precisely the things most needing to be said. And now I’ve said it, a disclaimer, of a kind.

For what to make of the rest, it’s up to you.

Whoever you think you are.

Who you?

Who me?

And what?

And why?

© Bede Nix, 2017. Not for publication or quotation without permission. All rights reserved.
No part of this website may be reproduced in any written, electronic, recorded, or photocopied form without written permission of the author.

“I have nothing to say. And I’m saying it.” (John Cage)