The Narrator’s Prologue (for Révérien)
For grace, at its most absurd. The passing, the ephemeral, the reckoning with what is inside, what you can see, what you would not accept, what you cannot deny. I am forgetful. I am an emergency vehicle. I am, and my hand makes the sign of your interrupted shoulder. Red powder falls as my fingers trace the contours of ten thousand scars, Honour’s face etched with the living memory of the very death of humanity, with every inch of our absolute coming short. For we do come short, at every turn. We walk on glass until it pierces boot and sock and calloused foot, red and bulbous, ripped to bitter shreds.
I am forgetful.
And so, to ever not.
This is a song of shaking. The murmurs of my shaking heart, the thudding that your presence prompts, the beats it always skips. (Don’t touch, she whispered, holding open the book at that page, the page of his cross-bound dying, the page my mother had always sought to hide from her young, unknowing eyes, the page she found by herself and couldn’t look away from. Don’t touch him, she told her mother, he’s hurt. )
A marching song, an anthem of sorts.
To stare down any rebel. To cut away at death.
To ward off the heat. To pin down your vacant look.
To counter their boldest move.
To waive my only privilege.
To weave in blood-red wool.
To picture on a cool, spring morning, grass and gravel underfoot as cloud and blue tease the sun out from behind its keeper.
A wall of fear.
A blanket of anguish.
A bed of iron will.
A grim resolution. And not a care in the world, save for the burden of the whole world on your fragile shoulders.
Reaper, come, now reaper, do, please comfort me with poppies red, my hand held high in protest.
(They’re coming now, I see them clearly, two and three, through eyes tightly shut, fluttering lids in a steely dawn, sky and lark and peony on the side.)
One step, two step, four step, three / <3 divvy baby, can’t you see / brakes, bar and skidding / moon is on the rise / windows shatter cold you always count to three and promise that you’ll never walk on by and so it’s (repeat, to the beat of schoolgirl’s clapping, as often as it takes until the playground skipping stops. Two ropes are swung in opposite directions, but parallel and overlapping, so their rotations describe a shifting tunnel. A girl – skinny red jeans with white t-shirt with red belt with black ballet pumps with twisted golden hoops with two hair clips, one gold, one red, on her left temple, side-parting marked with a flattened curl above her right eye, back hair divided in two parts, pulled into a tight ball to the side just behind her right ear and held by two pairs of red plastic baubles on black elastic and teased out into a stiff fan to the left of the nape of her neck – she studies the swirling movement, letting it flow to her shoulders then her knees then her ankles then her feet. Then she jumps.)
He fell. An underground room, furnished with scraps and puzzles, forgotten in a basement. A chance encounter brings this invisible man and one thousand three hundred and sixty-nine light bulbs to a standstill. Connected, they flood the shadows with uncanny brightness and the man is rendered in unmistakable form on photographic paper as silver halides give way to silver, flat white to tones of grey.
Two rooms, one light, one dark, and the sound of a thousand glass baubles crashing into the concrete floor of an empty high-rise corridor.
If thrown at just the right angle, they hit the wall exactly where peeling green paint meets blackened brick, and explode in every direction. Ten thousand tiny shards of broken light and sharpness. Water furious on ice and frozen steel.
Cluster, waft, trickle, purr, every tiny step is made of singing.
And I do sing.
If I could shake that light-bulb room, it might just sound like heaven. It might just rain with an everlasting song, be it only for a moment, before the splintering and the fear. And I would have you by my side, but please don’t come too close. Please watch your step and shield your face, please wait until the music fades, these pieces are such wretched bells. Please hold my hand behind me that your eyes might stay intact. For you saw it all so clearly, and now your sleep is awake with seeing. You must talk of what you saw, and I must sing. My hands held out towards you, red with songs of trust, red for her white piping on red cotton dress.
It takes forever never to forget.
Jerusalem, November 2009