Monthly Archives: September 2007

The cemetery

When I was young and jobless and it was their world, I used to run through the old unkempt cemetery, weaving between the crooked tombstones and jumping over the thicket. People sometimes shouted at me for not running on the path, but I always ran on as though I hadn’t heard. I was just passing through. It seemed important to run every day, sometimes twice a day, and always along the same route. It gave my life structure. I’d run home and stand at my window while I waited for the doddery shower to warm up. The window gave on a slant of the river that wound through the town. I often stood watching it carry its grimy load seaward. Sometimes a kind of mental mist would steal over me like a shiver and make me feel like a stranger in my own body. As evening fell, my reflection would appear in the window, slowly replacing the river. The more I examined my face — those empty unblinking eyes and straight lips — the harder it was to feel it was mine. It was a thing among things, untenanted. At times I was afraid my soul would detach itself altogether from my body and float away. This feeling came mostly at dusk. Then I’d put on my windbreaker and run through the cemetery again. It was always empty at dusk.

People are like that

Student: He was a kind man, then?

Old man: Sometimes.

Student: Not always?

Old man: No. People are like that.

– Strindberg, Ghost Sonata

The day your famous luck returned

This was the day your luck returned, the luck you thought had left you. Out of the fog, running around town sniffing out all the best deals. Walking home after the last deal had gone down, the latest in a run of jammy decisions, you felt the dreck and drift of a two-year losing streak lift and vanish like the grimy puddles in the sun. You felt it like a satisfying click, a falling into place.

Nihil ex nihilo

If a man looks for nothing, what right does he have to complain if he finds nothing?

– Master Eckhart

Midsummer Feast

Here I am then, nearly blind in both eyes,
Half-dead, half-lame,
Touched in the head, frothing at the mouth,
A fearful, shrinking worm
Crawling in your carcass, oh mystery,
Raising hell, chewing you out.

My hunch is, you prefer to remain forever
Unthinkable and unsayable,
Merely delectable, so that I may continue
To sate myself on your sweet appearances,
Your luscious, flower-strewn meadows,
Your vast banquets of evening stars.

– Charles Simic

Before taking a trip

The black dogs have lost my scent; I hear one of them’s become a guide dog for the blind man down the street. I’ve started dreaming at night. In the story (the only one he ever wrote) the idealist worked in the mortuary, prettifying corpses with chemicals: a slave to fatality and all the rest of it. He worked with nervous attention to detail and in the evenings sank into torpor. But this is real life, these winds are blowing the dust off my desk. I’ll run through any season’s weather.

The painting

‘The gentlemen are here.’
‘Which gentlemen?’
‘The ones with the painting.’
‘Send them away.’
‘But they’ve come a long way.’
‘Give them a cup of tea and send them away.’
‘And the painting?’
‘It’s not a real painting. It’s the work of an impostor.’
‘An impostor?’
‘A fake. A fake.’
‘And the gentlemen?’
‘Duped.’
‘And the money?’
‘Mine.’
‘Mr Walters?’
‘A fool. Like me.’
‘Duped?’
‘Finally you see. I’m a fool bobbing on a sea of fools.’
‘By Mrs Walters?’
‘Don’t you see, there was no Mystical Dimension.’
‘Madness?’
‘Lies. A lover. A planned trip. With my money. I never want to see that thing again.’