Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Portrait and the Real

[Extract from Journal, December 2010]


While you are recounting your pictures and impressions of this person –
She said – I dreamed about a dog I'd left behind – how could I have forgotten about it, how could I?
You think you are presenting her as clear as a portrait – clear and complete, with severe borders, stiff and solid, just the way you like them -


No stray threads, no paths leading nowhere, no fuzzy parts you could misinterpret or have to strain to see – no doubt you see, no doubt -

She, meanwhile, is someone else entirely, snagged with her private half-formed thoughts, uncertainty like a snapped dried stem of plant, blotched brown and dirty yellow – in dry weather the creamy colour of starched sunlight, in wet, like this, with snow turning to sludge and mixed with a colour of dark and rotting fruit, pale ivory turns into blotchy pulp.

The clouds are not so much clouds as the weight of Questions that will not be answered, piled like centuries one on top of the other until they form a palisade of quilted years, their stuffing half pulled from their sides, as if mad dogs attacked them, then lost interest.

Soaked questions, mauled by hunger and by time. A future world is horror-struck by the bloated debris of a world maddened by its loss of memory of who it really is – so it turns on itself, and rips its fabric of forgetting – in the way a trapped creature will gnaw at its own body, to free itself. This is what this civilization will be seen as, in a future that will live within its memory of Who it Really Is – a filigree of gold, a droplet of sunlight, the heartbeat of a star.
While now – we cannot breathe properly beneath the metal bands of clouds, our lungs cannot expand and so – we forget what air tastes like, how it can fill us – how it once could – we forget that we are the air – selfhood, crushed by cloud weight -
All these things are passing through her mind, and her body signals lack of sky and lack of warmth and the reassurance of movement -

She looks solid – she glows with definition, she feels like the aftermath of a clenched fist – whittled and splintered, damp and indecisive – then she half-turns and – though the sky has not changed, its texture and shade like half-melted snow – she remembers something someone once said to her – the dark honey in the voice and gesture – like someone's finger on her arm, she is arrested, she is loved, and she bites the neck off brittle stalks, tears them with her hands, feels prickly burrs against her palms and remembers the feeling of how juice is sucked out of her then how it surges back across her skin like light.


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