Janet (j4) wrote,

Careful with those tracks

In reponse to a request from vinaigrettegirl to write about footprints.


Step forward, put your best foot forward, put your foot down and stand on your own two feet. You'll leave a footprint, you leave them everywhere, like spoor. They're lined like the rings of a tree; they're a record, a clue, an impression. You like to leave an impression. You're afraid of fading out, of blending in, of placing your feet in some other saint's steps, of merely standing on the shoulders of the man with the lever, of being remembered only as an adjunct -- as a footnote. Press your foot into the cement on the sidewalk; you're a star among stars. Posterity is under your heel, the face obliterated by your boot.

Beneath your feet are layers of history, leaves left in the mud and sand and rock. Oceans of living matter are decaying, deforming, blackening, hardening, their fluid feelings solidifying into fact. It is into this vast compost-heap that you press your maker's mark, your stamp of ownership. In recording your passing you announce your intention to stay, to seep through the years until you squat blackly beneath the lot, ground hard as diamond.

Firm, neatly lined, rubber-stamped and final: this is the footprint you leave in the middle of the page, sealing my fate with the shape of your absence. I pour plaster in and solidify this space, watching the whiteness bleed into the gaps, like rays of bone piercing soft-shadowed skin as the sand picks a skeleton clean. From this isolated rib I can make an army of footprints, terracotta warriors to guard my tomb. But I cannot make a track, a path; I cannot pour life into a dry well. It is just a bed where no plants grow, a river where no water runs, a small and barren womb where at best something parasitical may shrivel and die. I cannot plot a course on a single point. I can shout your name into the void but I cannot use it to write a narrative, to weave a structure on which to hang a life.

For those who can read the signs, dinosaur tracks tell how the creatures walked, where they went, how they held themselves upright, what strides they took, whether they walked alone. They are a story told and waiting to be told. A researcher points them out, excited; the waving of his hands bodies forth a tail, a row of teeth, feet striding out of the page. Tracks can be followed to their source, traced through the ages; but a single point is stagnant, sterile, a stone at your feet. A ritual marker, grave goods. A millstone around your neck. You leave your mark, with no forwarding address; I trace my hand disconsolately around the outline, circling, clinging like earth, pressing the point.

This is how your foot sinks into the shifting sandstone of my life as you stand to survey the land that is yours. I can claw at the surface but the imprint is still visible, the incriminating dents from the pen's point that remain on the second page of the notepad, the parsley sinking unnoticed into the butter as the corpse slowly cools. And there's more beneath the genteel surface indentations: there are bruises where fingers have sunk into skin; red rivers with banks like a razor's edge; toothmarks, and the hot breath of extinction at your heels, and the smell of torn fragments of rotting meat.

I must say, I'm impressed.
Tags: psychogeography, vignette

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