Monthly Archives: June 2010

Train

‘I took walks and train rides, scouting for ways and places to do it, toying with it. I narrowed it down to a train. I’d get off at a rural station, walk across the rolling fields with an eye on my watch, find a suitable place by a cluster of trees and wait. I’d have what they’d need in my bag, which I’d leave by the tracks. Sweet dream… What was I playing at? Whose will was this? It came down to a simple question of death or life… You’ve run out of options, said the voice, what’s holding you back but your own cowardice? You can’t live and you can’t die, you’re beyond useless. You couldn’t make it work and you can’t even make this work. You’d get that floating feeling of terror and aloneness and you’d cling to your useless life and go home to your regrets with your tail between your legs. You’ve got nothing left but me but you can’t even listen to me. How will this end for you, have you ever thought about that? Are you even capable of thinking about it? No, you’re not, that’s why you need me. Are you starting to see? But you can’t even listen to me, you can’t even do that right. Yet your whole useless life has come down to this and will continue to come down to this, and you know it. I know you know and you know I know you know. There’s nothing for it, it said, you know you’ve run out of options. You didn’t have a lot to start with, and those you had you squandered and now you’ve run out. And the longer you live the stronger I’ll grow. Listen to me… I took walks and train rides, scouting for ways and places to do it, toying with it. I narrowed it down to a train. I’d get off at a rural station, walk across the rolling fields with an eye on my watch, find a suitable place by a cluster of trees and wait. I’d have what they’d need in my bag, which I’d leave by the tracks. Sweet dream…’

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No need

‘I remember a couple of days when I was pulled right out of the hole, it felt like for good. (Everything felt like for good in those days.) The voice silent, blissful respite. No need but to exist and calm with whatever came. For a day or two, for a day, for a few moments I saw how things could be, should be.’

Out of dead time

‘I remember being pulled out of the hole some days after. Out of dead time. From time to time it would happen. Somehow I’d silence the voice that told me I wasn’t listening and wouldn’t understand if I did. I’m trying to remember what was out there. Unfamiliar territory, dangerous in its own way. Pregnant with possibility and risk. Easier to step back in the shadows and start listening again: you think you’re free, you think wrong, listen to me.’

Daydreaming

‘I’d lie in bed all morning daydreaming of a sudden fatal accident. A crash, a fall, a meteor. Something that would take me at a stroke, since I was too weak to give myself over either to death or life. In daydreams everything was possible if unsatisfactory. But it seemed less unsatisfactory to dream of dying than living. Almost comforting.’

Stewing

I knew I should be grateful to Mrs Guinea, only I couldn’t feel a thing. If Mrs Guinea had given me ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise, it wouldn’t have made one scrap of difference to me, because wherever I sat – on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok – I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.

– Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

You won’t listen

‘And then it came back, when some time had passed, the voice that told me, You made yourself ill, you let yourself go. I’ve let myself go, I said, you’re right. You don’t know the half of it, it said. You let yourself go and you paid for it and now you have to climb back and you don’t know how to start without my telling you. And you won’t listen.’

And smile into my absence

In a sunlit corner of that city
Where I was and was not
I came upon someone fallen quiet
Who was myself and not myself.

Lifting his eyes he addressed me.
‘I am beside you now
Riding the breath but not staying.
What you need is this distraction.

When you wake the mirror clouds
With bloom of my exile breath.
You trace your name
And smile into my absence.’

— John Welch, from ‘Imagination and Dream’

The stones lay lumpish and cold under my bare feet. I thought longingly of the black shoes on the beach. A wave drew back, like a hand, then advanced and touched my foot.
The drench seemed to come off the sea floor itself, where blind white fish ferried themselves by their own light through the great polar cold. I saw shark’s teeth and whale’s earbones littered about down there like gravestones.
I waited, as if the sea could make my decision for me.
A second wave collapsed over my feet, lipped with white froth, and the chill gripped my ankles with a mortal ache.
My flesh winced, in cowardice, from such a death.
I picked up my pocket-book and started back over the cold stones to where my shoes kept their vigil in the violet light.

*

But when it came right down to it, the skin of my wrist looked so white and defenceless that I couldn’t do it. It was as if what I wanted to kill wasn’t in that skin or the thin blue pulse that jumped under my thumb, but somewhere else, deeper, more secret, and a whole lot harder to get at.

— Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Hesitation

‘It was the first thought I woke up to at night. It seemed perfect and logical. Almost comforting. I narrowed it down to a train or truck, though I disliked the idea of implicating others. In any case I was a coward, and I often pictured myself holding back at the last moment, my life as a hesitation before death.’

Air

‘In the days that followed I felt as if I were floating above the hole, suspended in air. The ground had disappeared, only the hole remained below me, ready for me to drop back down at the least disturbance. My words meant next to nothing. They were themselves part of the air, a congregation of vapours.’