Flotsam

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell

To toll me back from thee to my sole self!

This is physical writing, slow and easy, heart and brain, hand moving slowly and easily. For its own sake. I will probably throw this in the river tomorrow. This making shapes, letting the words flow across the page seems very mysterious, makes me feel that just being here is very mysterious. What little light there is reveals the lines growing, moving, words never written before coming from nowhere. Like small waves, like the small waves on the river, almost still, and like the waves inseparable from the flowing water, the words that form and ripple in the flowing lines are inseparable from the hand that shapes them, the mind and heart behind the hand, and.   And the tiny waves gone before they appear, carried away by the river flowing, by time carrying everything away.

To write like this, now I am thinking about what it means to write like this, standing back, is to concentrate one thought. It’s cold today, a grey wind delivering chilly small slaps on my face reminding me of my face. Now I am thinking of how my skin feels, and I write it down. The water in the pan on the little camping stove is bubbling. I make tea. I sit in my shelter and look out. Now that the hiss of the gas stove is gone I hear the small waves chop and splash by the shore.

Over the river the humped darknesses are spotted with dim points of light beneath a runny grey sky. November twilight thickens. The water runs fast towards the sea, some some dirty foam around the sandbanks. Near me the land blurs to red mud and clumps of hardy weed where it enters the river or clings in tiny overhangs soft as black marzipan waiting to be washed away. The light of a buoy about two hundred yards out winks every ten seconds or so.

For six months and for now, this place has been undesired by other footsteps. It is a meaningless field sticking into the river, sodden and slowly sinking as time and water dissolve it. There is debris around me, old foundations, twisted sheets of rusted metal, iron wheels and cable. A tumble of ancient bricks marks the site of an old farmhouse.  I sit in my concrete shelter, a remnant from the war, and look out. Vigilance.

It is so easy here to hold a thought, a word. To know it, feel it, be it as I curve the shapes upon the paper. Out there, words slide, thoughts slip or perish in the assault of metal sneers and ungenerous despair. Thoughts evaporate in the heat of restless anguish and fear. Here, an image holds fast as the buoy out there. Not something to cling to, some slippery safety in the heavy current, but a light, a point of concentration, a guide. Hope is a heavy thing with its roots deeper than the soil, yet light as the point that guides it.

A sudden gleam of winter sun spears the waters and a million flashes and sparkles of light pulse on the waves that are the water that are the sun. Each tiny spark, each flash upon the wave is born and gone before it is alive. I  think how mysterious are the words I write that somehow stay still and hold the thought, as if their little time on earth is life itself. Then the sun is gone again. The river rushes on.

I sense and fill out with my memory what my eyes cannot see. The debris rushing seawards on the flood, the broken trees, the plastic, the pallets, the rubbish, children’s toys,  lifebelts, sewer and chemical ooze. Writing is a river through time. A sentence is a story. Memories are written into me, and words write through me, language writes me into time. My body is a tomb for all the children I was, all the young men, all the dreamers and betrayers,  innocents and lovers.  I think of my father and uncles who set out from the river stoking ships to Burma and Malaysia, making wakes through the seas, leaving flashes and glitters behind, makers of history. I think of all the children of men who  became the tombs of children who loved and groaned and make history.

I have lit the little oil lamp. In the concrete shelter the pockmarked concrete melts into shadows at the corners. This small light in an abandoned place is all. I close my eyes and breathe deep and slow from my belly, seeing a dark sea fall then rise as I breathe out slowly. I am writing little now. As the night becomes thick the sound of the waters seems one with this light. Soon I will leave.

Tonight I will sleep down in the shed on Denny’s allotment among the soily smell and sacks, warm from the paraffin heater.  We’ll work all day tomorrow. He’ll bring good food and conversation.

I am rested. I’ll carry my small evening stillness with me. Walk through the cold copse and  over the broken fences, across the frosted furrows and out onto the main roads that run past business parks and shopping centres. I will disappear into the powerful metalled current of life. Lost in the gleams and glitters that flash and are gone, I will yet  carry deep in my dying body the still point of one final star.

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