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There was once a road through the woods - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
There was once a road through the woods
I feel as though I can't find a way in to any of the things I want to write about. For the last few mornings I have paused to look at the snowdrops on the side of my path to work, until their heads are bowed under the pressure of unspoken words, and I am frozen between the lines, unable to speak, my spirits lifting at the turning of the seasons but sinking under the weight of all the flowers that will fall without their passing being marked, all the hours that will pass wholly unexamined. They're stars fallen by the wayside, or bells that peal in the spring; they're the white dresses of green girls, ice crystals in the dirt, and the thawing of my heart after winter. They're the whiteness of the pages I can't fill. Once the words didn't matter; the woods would clothe their arms with leaves and carpet their floors with celandines, and the clearings would ring with bluebells, and the sun would drip through the trees like something you could catch on your tongue. Not a time without words, but a time when there were enough words for the moment and no more, when the air we breathed was sufficient unto the day.

It's easy to sing hymns to the passing seasons, to stand with your head bowed like the snowdrops and reverently watch the turning wheel. The world lends itself to wonder or worship; a flower may seem a vessel for childlike animism, or an offering on an altar. But it is neither: it is a grain of sand in a gathering heap; it is a cell -- a child or a cancer -- dividing and multiplying; it is the momentum of the minutes and the hours and the days that rush in and pile up, filling my mind and my lungs, stifling breath and thought.

Accretions of analysis thicken the world's arteries until nothing is itself. I want a paring-knife to peel away the layers, I want a sharp tongue to speak of what lies underneath; I want to find the way through the woods, a path where there is still space between things, air to breathe. It need not be the pale spaces between the petals of flowers or the bark-dry spaces between trees, it can be the sheer spaces between buildings, the spires piercing the sky, the no-man's land between glorious armies of sun-blind windows facing each other from skyscraper to skyscraper, the stencil-sharp spaces that bridges cut into their horizons.

And all this is meaningless. I want to switch all this off and listen to the silence, but the fear that runs deepest in me is the fear that if I stop speaking I will recede into the spaces between. Sometimes the parallelograms of sky between the roofs of houses make me ache to be something else, something pure.
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Comments
addedentry From: addedentry Date: February 8th, 2005 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Figure/ground, ground/figure: on a sharp still day like today I have to remind myself that everything looks so well defined only because it's defined by the surrounding spaces.

'Bark-dry' is as admirably precise as 'stencil-sharp'. Poets are allowed imprecision, but they have to justify it. Who are the 'green girls'? Do they have greensickness?
j4 From: j4 Date: February 8th, 2005 02:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Poets are allowed imprecision, but they have to justify it.

Listen, mister, I'll have you know that I have a current poetic licence which is valid in all states including sobriety.

Who are the 'green girls'?

They're the snowdrops, green (in both senses) in white dresses; or they're the hours spent giving evidence / Or birth, the hours that make us no longer green (in both senses); or else they're just a shape that you see in the encrustations of words, a cloud that's backed like a whale, a figure of speech putting up shoots out of the ground and taking on a life of its own.
sion_a From: sion_a Date: February 8th, 2005 02:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
And are the green girls in white dresses a complement to the lily-white boys clothèd all in green?
j4 From: j4 Date: February 8th, 2005 04:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hints of, hints of. Also girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes.
juggzy From: juggzy Date: February 8th, 2005 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
I read it as a signal to young girls at the beginning of their adult lives, as indicated by the reference to debutante rituals ie the white dress. YMMV.
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