Sunday, 8 March 2009

Fields (1993)

That night there was an open quality to the sky above my house, as if the upper parts of it had been cut away to lay the dusk open to the vacuum beyond. The lights shone farther, the colours were richer, and the darkness came faster. And so it was possible to stand outside in the pool of lamplight by the screen door, looking up toward the zenith where the darkness was greatest, and think that I was witnessing the first pinholes forced through the cooling cerements of the day, as I could every night. This is what you see when you look up at the sky at night from a sufficiently remote place: you see the indifference of the universe. Although it may be that what finally meets your eyes when you turn them upward is so old that 'sight' is no longer the right word for what happens there.

It is kindly in its collapse, though. We see a face in the moon or a crustacean in the stars, and suddenly the distance is lesser because the terrain more familiar. Just the stark fact of the gaze itself, spanning light years. That much is our work—my work: I was doing it, just then, listening to the moths hitting white-painted slats, lighting and re-lighting my cigarette, looking up and clicking the tendons in my ankles and naming things. On the big codex for the taking. The shrew. The vagabond. The ribcage. The sleeping nun. The spirit level. The loaf. Something scurried past on the decking; I looked down, didn’t see it, and winced at the sudden brightness. It seemed crucial not to look back up before going back in. So I didn’t. I gathered my things, a little too much to carry, and, in three attempts, pushed the door open with my shoulder.

But this is how you get on with it, afterwards. It doesn’t matter how heavy things get, the foot goes on lifting up and sinking back down and pushing you along, one footfall at a time. To keep moving, that’s the important thing, the best thing. It might be the only thing. I was at the kitchen table now, slipping the two brimming canvas bags onboard. Voices from the radio spoke to one another at the sink where the light shone. I eased the three packing tubes onto the top of the bags delicately and then handed them down to the table. I shut the door. I walked to the sink and took a glass from the drainer. Nothing quite seemed to make it to the cupboard these days. Things just crossed from one end of the counter to the other. I wiped the rim of the glass where my lips would go and filled it almost to the top with cool, clear water. I sat myself down to drink it before I put my hands out flat and started to cry.