There's just too much stuff rattling around my mind. There are Christmas presents which I've bought for people and am already worrying if they were the wrong things to buy; I seem to have lost the knack of buying presents, if indeed I ever had it. There's the taste of slightly off tuna, because I didn't realise the tuna steaks had gone slightly off, or rather by the time I did realise it I'd already cooked them and they were dinner, and it was that or nothing, though I had an avocado later to compensate. At work I have been drinking too much coffee, and eating far too much because I'm bored: muffins and popcorn and banana chips and surimi sticks and carrots and malt loaf and nuts and biscuits and all kinds of rubbish. Exercise has kept me from getting too fat, but now I have cancelled my karate lessons until the new year, partly as a result of last week's lesson resulting in my back aching so badly I couldn't move it, and my being reluctant to risk doing that again, but partly just because I don't have the energy and motivation to do it at the moment, and I know that while I intend to practise over Christmas and come back revitalised in 2005, time will catch up and overtake me and before I know it I'll have used it all up. Last year Christmas caught up on me so fast that when it happened it didn't really feel like it was there, though that was partly because I was spending the whole time waiting for things that weren't going to happen. What else is in my head? A story that I started a long time ago about giving up smoking, which is an odd thing for me to write about given that I've never really smoked, but it was partly a metaphor for something, and I remember writing down the notes while I was in my bed in my flat during the few months when I actually lived on my own and knew how to set the timer on the boiler, and anyway now I think I might be able to make the story work, but I can't find the notes for it, any more than I can find a particular poem I wrote on a train once, a poem about ice and fire which I want to rewrite now. Notebooks are distributed all over my life and I can always see the binding, the page, the shape of the words, their position on the page, the colour of the ink, all in blindingly clear detail, but none of these things help me to locate a notebook. And then when I find it, it may turn out that it was actually a green book, or actually black ink, or actually not a poem about ice or fire; it may very well turn out that I have remembered a feeling and am searching for a word which doesn't actually appear. As so often. And most of these notebooks are mostly full of lists, and it occurs to me how easy it is to compile lists which cohere, and lists which don't, and to harness the feelings that either type of list produces, but it is a cheap victory. Shopping lists are our unintentional haiku, accidentally mundane fridge-magic. We see god's face in pieces of toast, and we can't tell the difference between a metaphor and a map. Even when the wind is southerly.
Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind
That blows before and after time
I've always surrounded myself with bits of paper, like some small animal nesting. Paper settles on every surface in my house; it becomes solid and stratified. As a teenager, in my room where every vertical surface was covered with magazine clippings -- and not just posters and pinups of photogenic pop stars, but words, words, words -- and where every box was stuffed with posters and letters and newspaper articles and cards and tickets and torn-out notepad-pages and music and photos and poems scrawled on the back of chewing-gum wrappers, I wrote this:
Daily PoemEarlier tonight, while looking for poems in my anthologies, I found bookmark after bookmark, keys to memory's deposit-boxes. Forms I never filled in tucked into books I never finished. Letters I never sent in books I never started. Invitations to parties I didn't go to in books where I hid from the world. Photos, sometimes. Phone numbers. A million dead ends.
I cut out all the paper's Daily Poems,
pasted them religiously in scrapbooks,
for years and years.
Yesterday I found one in some papers,
hiding in some long-forgotten schoolwork.
It fluttered to the ground like a leaf,
On its back was a square of news,
some story of a war, a politician's scandal,
weapons and lechery,
sex and violence.
It was the poem I had saved.
From here I can see: a notepad with a list I'm making as part of my plans for something I might actually finish; an envelope; a letter, carefully folded in half and kept beside a CD case because it's a frustrating half-inch too big to fit in the case without folding the letter further, and I don't want to do that because the fold of the letter is part of what it is, because I am obsessive about the integrity of objects, of placement (and placelessness), about preserving the sites of findings; a yellow ring-binder full of poems printed greyly in Geneva because it was all the ancient dot-matrix printer could manage (and there's another hoard of dated words); three piles of books -- the books I read on each of my two holidays respectively (which again I want to keep in their groupings because this is the way I create meaning, weaving coherence into the things that happen to be found together) and the books which I have just borrowed. The only ends which aren't dead ends are the ones which aren't ends yet, and yet again, we choose where -- or if -- we end the story.