All entries for Friday 26 November 2010

November 26, 2010

A Ghost of What We See, What We Pass Through & What Might be Watching Us Watching Ourselves Waiting.

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David Morley


But these two things shall come to thee
in a moment in one day, the loss of children,
and widowhood: they shall come upon thee
in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries
and for the great abundance of thine enchantments.
—Isaiah 47


I love those stories when the world they wake

whitens on the horizon of your own eye

as though another sun has neared us in the night

or some new star flowered from the dark matter.

They shift on a single movement of mind or image—

a suicide leaps into space but lands on a high ledge

where he is found by fishermen with ropes and jokes.

The man says he thought the night was his own death

and it was, nearly. His hair has sprung into white fright

as if his head had been dipped into the dyes of the dawn.

What’s expected of me, more so because unexpected,

is that I will go on telling and making and spinning,

more so because I was guilty of the crime called happiness.

Stories for children when we know all of us are children.

And now that I possess only my own poised possession

that I shall deliver these tales from some darker attention.

There they squat around the fires, with their teeth glittering.

They are moving on from their roll-ups to their shared pipes,

from red wine to glugs of gold whiskey. They are settling in

as if they were waiting for some long haul between settlements.

They say language shows you, so my stories should show you

what worlds I’ve wound through, whose voices I’ve breathed in—

that smoke spooling from their mouths; the fire’s smoke

swirling above them make an understood utterance, a ghost

of what we see, what we pass through and what might be watching

us watching ourselves waiting. If that’s too curdled for you

try truth. A five-year old boy dies. His parents bide by his body

for three days. Then they fill a rucksack with his best-loved toys.

Another rucksack embraces the child’s body. They drive to a cliff,

hitch on the rucksacks and throw themselves spinning off the earth.

What does their tale say about how much they loved each other

and how much their son loved and was loved? Their story

makes something cease in you. They drove as if going on holiday

in a campervan. They say language shows you, and this story

shows to me that truth and even love grow impossibly possible.

This is not what you have come for. It is not what you wanted.

Where is the magic-eyed metaphor that reverses them into life?

Why am I not spilling word-lotions into your ears that allow

these three loving people to meet in another place, laughing

and singing and unbroken? Why doesn’t the story wake the boy?

My own story interests nobody, not now I’m on my own.

Making story costs them nothing but my drink and caravan.

It’s the hour before I begin when the clouds close down

and I’m lacking of language and in a desert of image

and nothing knows nothing. I am not even nowhere.

Now the word-trail slows in my mind, my blood sheds

all sugar and I can recognise no thing, not even the walls

of my van, or who I am, or what I will later, maybe, become.

I used to reach out at these times, touch my wife and say

‘my wife’; then I would come back. I would come back into life.


The fire may as well be language for translating the logs

from their green, spitting blocks into red pictures and paintings.

The children spy wide worlds from the ringside of the fireside

as if a circus were performing before them. It shows in their eyes

for it is all reflected there. I usually start the evening with a call

to calm, then a joke and a drink before I unleash the animals.

Animal tales first, padding around the fire just there in the dark,

now in the ring of light, and back again; I go out of sight

for the ending. Then stories about witches (the children dozing)

and so on to burkers and ghosts before night swallows my voice.

They say language shows you but subject shows you too.

Reverse that order of telling and you end up killing the evening,

sending the children unarmed into nightmare, startling

the rabbits of the audience with glare of monster and murder.

Yet one day, one day I shall never be there, not that I am now.

I stalk that ring of light. I know to toe around every twig.

I know when to lower my voice, and when to stop silent.

That’s when I let natural magic have its effect—an owl call;

a dog fox wooing demonically in the wood; badgers scratching

and sputtering. These are not words; they are warier than words.

They are life not legend and sometimes they flout me.

They do not enter on cue. They make witty what is deadly

or horror from humour. Control. Do I really want control?

When their hearts are hearing me while their eyes are on the fire

it is as if I were the fire’s brother, that we were a double act.

The fire came free (although children fed it until sleep).

Just pictures and paintings. We’d see them anyway in dreams.

What’s expected of me is that I feed their dreams, lobbing

green blocks of words that spit and split and charm and char

while all the long, wordy night I am desperate to be doused.

What’s fabulous might be a hedgehog spiny with rhyme

or a bride born from gnarled nouns. What’s fabulous might be

darkness drowsing over a woman of words beside a waterfall

of words. What’s fabulous might be an anvil hammered white-hot

with hurt, or Lipizzans held or hurtling on the harness of a verb.

Truth or tale, you’ve winnowed my mind many times too many

for me to be free with feigning, and now night’s met my heart

and halved it. This is something I cannot say tonight, for tonight

is my last night. Tonight at midnight I am laying down my words.

I shall bury them beneath the embers of that brother, the fire.

I am sloughing the freight of fiction, the shackling story.

I owe this to my wife for believing in the one truth of me.

I am leaving the camp by dawn. I am taking nothing

apart from myself. The enchantment I offered as payment,

they will find it under fire. They will shovel it out ashen,

riven beyond repair. Stories are second chance. They repair.

They repay. I am broken. I want to try the truth.      So,

I am glad you are all here. I hope you enjoy your evening.

I was here all the time listening to you but now it’s my turn.

Ladies and gentleman, and children. I am ready when you are ready.

from Enchantment by David Morley (Carcanet Press, 29th November 2010)

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