They are lying in the hissing grass on a gauze green day above dappling sun mist. The past behind them like healed grazes on a flawless skin, a picnic together, an unknown future shining.
Winged beast am I in mortal sandwich.
Crunching darkness implodes. Reddish light. I bite.
I am wingless rising up to incredible light.
A faint echo below.
“There was a bloody bee in the lunchbox. I’ve bitten it. It’s bloody well stung me”
Eternity buzzes at me.
Bite versus bite, I am in effortless flight.
A free bee.
ii What to write?
Blue spots. I think they were called full stops once. Lines and squiggles called words. And I – sat here, in a room of friends and strangers, and the not-knowing that comes from that.Yet I am so full of words, overflowing at times, when I get going, so to speak.
I teeter along this line of knowing and not-knowing like the man in the film who walked the high wire between two skyscrapers in New York. Did you see that film? The drop was awesomely unimaginable. More unimaginable than the still point, but he was never still. Like Rilke he was circling and circling. And so I circle. Words that are only ever an approximation at best of anything I really want to say. Yet I am in love with them. Is it possible to love and be light, to land lightly, to balance and rebalance, to find the point of stillness here, now for whatever wants to arise, for the simplicity of that which emerges?
The film finished and he did it. He crossed the gap with all that space beneath his feet; he crossed and the story never ended and he was written about in books and feted and even this film was made about him. Speaking about how we all wobble around the still centre, balance and rebalance, live, settle, love, get over the unimaginable.
So what was I trying to say with these approximations of reality? It was something about the blue spots. I think they call them full stops.
Generations ago, someone sawed the legs in half.
Lower. Easier for breastfeeding the baby they said.
She had bought it a new red cushion. Shiny satin.
Comfier to sit on, they said.
She had polished it, lovingly, using only pure beeswax.
No noxious fumes for the baby they said.
She practised sitting on it, imagining the swollen kicking mass that was her belly as a sweet suckling infant.
Good to get more rest they said.
The baby was born dead. She wept. She felt like her heart had been sawn in half.
The low chair, the nursing chair wept with her, tears trapped in beeswax.
Allsorts came out of an exercise in thinking about an ‘Invisible Woman’ …
So they say
Men survey. Women are surveyed. Or so they say. Not Wilma, the Unseen Woman though. She is outside now, listening to workmen rebuilding the storm damaged wall, discussing imaginary conquests and what could be paraphrased as their bra sizes, simultaneously rolling stones into groups defined by their largeness. She goes downriver, where fishermen are comparing their catches both pescatorial and pectorial. She reaches the harbour. Here the ships are in and the sailors strutting. The talk is of salt, seaweed, barnacles and spray. Brandy and wild wide waves. Depth, and swell.
Wilma steps out of invisibility and enters the ocean.
Road building in Poland, August 1961: Lost innocence
She melded in the Tatras.
The only girl, small, neat, bright and American, among a motley bunch of British students on UN vacation work experience.
Ostensibly road building, she lit up days off in the mountains and by the river.
We met, relaxed, in pre-Wall Berlin, about to ‘do good’, naive, self-important.
We returned, frightened, to find the Wall and armed guards.
Clinging to our passports, hers, being American, was most scrutinised.
She alone stayed calm.
We all had fallen for her.
Then she disappeared.
She was called Ruth.
Where is my son? Handcuffed and swept, Unwitnessed, from a street at dawn. A hood over his head, the pressing gun Butted against a mother left to mourn. Jammed behind a passenger seat Hearing only the engine’s growl, And a passing siren that’s not for him. An electric prod sparks, and naked Howls leave sores exposed and weeping, Whilst grief seeps through bones, Turning my chestnut smooth to grey. Everyday I visit this place For I trust in you my Lord. I listen to all the Government’s reasoning, The lies fantastical – no one can quibble Suffocate in fear and longing for truth.
The woman came to me for cutting.
My mother said NO.
I went back to school but nobody would speak to me.
Without cutting there will be no husband.
I didn’t understand.
We moved to a shack in the city.
My Mum cried. I cried.
At my new school the teacher took us to see a film.
A lady said that the cutting was bad for us.
Two of her children had died when they were cut.
The lady on the film was my Mum.
Her two children were my twin sisters Marti and Fatu.
Now I understand.
I dress ‘to kill’ in my feathers and skills.
Shimmering moonlight fills the bedroom. The stone walls glinting, reflecting movements of the river below.
I am cool and white like the moonlight, silky, smooth.
My naked body, cool in his hands.
Weightless, substance-less, I am about to float into space, a familiar journey. When he tries to stop me.
‘Open – your – eyes,’ he commands. He wants to see me.
My body is performing skilfully but I cannot open my eyes. I am only partly there. I have almost gone. Trapped in terror between the worlds of visible and invisible.
I always make my real self invisible …
The First Time
The first time Tom saw Dylan, in 1965, there was already a buzz surrounding this young American songwriter. Queueing, Tom chatted nervously to the girl in front of him. Her A- levels, like his, were near. Once inside the City Hall she disappeared to the balcony.
Eventually Dylan was on stage and for about fifteen songs epitomised presence and lyrical virtuosity in equal measure. At the end of the best two hours of Tom’s young life he filed out for the last bus home, but under a streetlight, smiling, stood the girl from earlier. ‘I can hitch home’ he thought.
Sunday teatime table set, linen tablecloth, lace doilies. Best china polished off and gleaming. Homemade cake, scones and strawberry jam. Hot toasted teacakes run with butter.
Around the table animated talk between mother, father and teenage children. Love, laughter and warmth radiate.
Sunday teatime table set, oilcloth. Crockery chipped and mismatched. Shop bought cake. Mother’s apron hangs forlornly on a hook. Father sits alone, children grown, seeds scattered on the wayward wind.
Sunday teatime table set, linen and lace. Best china adorned with homemade fare. Everyone engaged in animated conversations. Mother seated centre table, heart and soul of the family.
Colette knew they would be coming to claim another victim for Madame Guillotine.
Invisible in the background, never acknowledged, she was a shadow, a faithful, loyal wife. She prepared canvases, mixed paint, even painted whole areas of the portrait. He was the foremost painter of the day. The patronage of the nobility gone, he had fled to England.
The knocking on the door was insistent and she answered fearful for her life. Instantly she recognised the visitor. It was the leader of the mob who insisted she paint his portrait.
Colette became a fine miniaturist.
She divorced her husband.
On becoming invisible
Don’t look for me, I’m gone, but look in the morning shadow across the landing, the sag of the bed, the dregs in the cup, the living, breathing void, a space in the air where my heart still beats. So eat from the fridge, and drink from the tap, walk on the cinder path with bare feet, hold on to everything, and I’ll be holding too. And when your hand slips across the sheet one cold early morning, seeking warmth let me meet it, and let me carry you across the threshold.