A quarter of the way through the year. The weather's turned (because I do not hope to turn again) and I feel like the rain has washed away my will, left me beached and stranded.
I keep coming back to a few words of a Larkin poem ("Send No Money"):
And I meet full face on dark mornings
The bestial visor, bent in
By the blows of what happened to happen.
Larkin's dark mornings lurk in the same area of my head as the "worse things" in Fleur Adcock's poem:
There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in public.
There are worse things than these miniature betrayals,
committed or endured or suspected; there are worse things
than not being able to sleep for thinking about them.
It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in
and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse
We've all been there. (Party on Friday, party on Saturday, post-party recovery party on Sunday, out late last night, and so many good things but now the worse things are lining up outside my mind like a terracotta army, each one fragile on its own but inexorable in their hundreds and thousands.)
But it's Larkin's "what happened to happen" that really hurts; the sense that I'm incidental to my own life, a cameo role ("Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?") in something that's scripted by somebody else ("...what something hidden from us chose..."). I don't feel like it's God, or Fate, or the Turning Wheel of Infinite Moo Moo Moo, which dictates what happens; it's nothing so personal, nothing so human. I could happily argue with God, I would agree to play Fluxx with the Devil for my soul, but there's no bargaining with the sense that your life is a series of glass beads strung out on razor-sharp silver wires that you cannot see or touch.
These threads connect us all together.
If you're going to have your life scripted by other people, of course, you could do a lot worse than something that's mostly written by Eliot, Larkin, Beckett and Pinter (soundtrack by Thea Gilmore, Alison Krauss, Kristin Hersh, Nick Drake, Jackson Browne, Radiohead, and The Cure, in an innovative and disturbing pop-country post-indie angst-folk crossover venture). Illustrations by Gorey and Beardsley, please.
Unfortunately all I seem to be able to hang on to is the stills from the movie ("In a perfect world where everyone was equal I would still own the film rights and be working on the sequel"). It's the images that stay with me and carry on meaning something when everybody else has gone.
I remember standing at Parson's Pleasure in the dark staring out at the river at the point where it seems almost like a lake, the water waiting to race down the rollers for the punts; and the water was mirror-smooth so that the whole of the night sky was at my feet. If I look hard enough I can see myself staring into that abyss, and I can see the pale blur at my back where wings are unfurling, and I can see how close my feet were to stepping into the night, and I can feel the night air pouring into my lungs.
I miss Oxford so much it hurts. I miss the time as much as the place; I miss the newness of everything, falling in love, falling in lust, just falling and knowing that something or someone will catch you. ("No trusting hand awaits the falling star.") I miss being able to spend a week in bed with someone talking about poetry and music and swords and earthshaking theories of time and memory, feeling like you're inventing sex for the first time and it's all so new, so raw, so perfect that it hurts, and you don't want it to stop hurting, you want the light to blind you every time, the first rays of morning streaming through every new window, searing your skin.
("I am thinking of your voice / and of the midnight picnic once upon a time before the rain began.") It's probably raining on Angel and Greyhound meadow as well right now. I wonder what happened to my red carnation? Can they take root? ("'That corpse you planted last year in your garden, / 'Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?'") I hope it just rotted, returned to the earth. ("What happens to a dream deferred? / Does it dry up / Like a raisin in the sun? /Or fester like a sore - / And then run? / Does it stink like rotten meat? /Or crust and sugar over - / Like a syrupy sweet? // Maybe it just sags / Like a heavy load. / Or does it explode?")
I am glass, and I shatter into a million pieces; the light refracts through me, scattering jewels over my skin. Stained glass. It's so easy to mock the clichés, the goth poetry, the bedsit angst; but this is how it feels, and the image is so old -- like everything else; there's nothing left to think, nothing to be said.
Geseah ic þæt fuse beacen
wendan wædum ond bleom; hwilum hit wæs mid wætan bestemed,
beswyled mid swates gange, hwilum mid since gegyrwed.
I'm not even going to start on St. Theresa and angels with golden darts, or Julian of Norwich and the image of Christ as mother-figure; it's all true, it's all interwoven, it's all meaningless. The more I understand the less it means.
Just one blow of its wing, they say.