I’m afraid I have to gobble up every dead letter from the laconic language of a dream that was so rapidly obliterated by a HAAR it was breathtaking. Because I never had time to take a bearing on the melancholy shore before opaque white fingers of cloud jabbed between the peninsular faster than a mackerel snapping up shit, I was lost. It was a soundless
Only a huge sleeper, tamped into the clay, standing ten feet from my doorway was visible & in front of that bobbed a pied wagtail, incessantly, which I drew for days as I waited & wished. Those days were drenched & the light softened by the clouds that clung around the mountain. So that small space betwixt the doorstep threshold on which I sat & grew numb & the black post had no shape to contain it. The ragged soft edge of the mist was a defacement, a severance from the phenomenal world into which I could jettison those few repeated hopes that had piled up monotonously in the shuttle of my glances to pick each line accurately as the drawing grew. (Or I could piss over & beyond a smudgy demarcation into where the men of straw were stacked). If I wanted those hopes to be really exorcised, easily like a puff of smoke, why did I fix that moment with a sharp bird pattern under the large stake set up for no reason?
There were four full sacks of sand stacked by that baulk of timber (I had forgotten those until I saw the drawing again) & the two other empty sacks made of woven fibre-glass that held slack coal had a rubbed grey look. By now I’d almost forgotten what who I was waiting for looked like. I stanked back the emotion. Sat on the cold step. Drew on the matching frigid emptiness without & within & drew the bulging sacks. The pencil whispered as it roamed their folds & crannies, while on the post it scaled the sloomy grain with squeaks.
“I read that in Colchis men’s dead bodies were suspended in sacks from trees.” Rosine told me later. “It didn’t say what they did with women’s bodies.”
“I can tell you their frames keep going forever & were there pulling on the ropes hauling the bastards up into full view where they could keep a good eye on them.” Cried Medea.
“Yes. When dead they needed to protect themselves from violence.”
I suppose I knew then.
I took walks to the ravine to stroke the pure white layers in the bed-rock of the torrent buried in its deep slit in the mountainside & there I thought of the leap.
When X eventually arrived I was disappointed & she made plain so was she. I saw this lumpy shape coming up the hill emerging out of the fog struggling with the steepness of the slope. Our tepid greeting was strained of all warmth, imparting the disapproval of our appraisals & getting the distance right . . . disengagement. In this place where great waterfalls gushed from the skyline I expected things of the heart & cock to zip along with more than a little fire. Greedily & crudely I’d expected to get my craving for sex satiated. Full stop. We squinted at each other resentfully. “You don’t expect me to bury myself up here, do you?”
She carelessly smudged the drawing when I showed her it that first evening. A commonplace happening, I can’t think why I got angry, perhaps I suspected it wasn’t an accident but her clumsiness a covert answer to my unspoken demands.
At that time we cooked on an open fire setting the pots around it on stones & the semi-circle in front of the blaze was the only warm spot in a room that was bitter cold & dank. The walls covered with a loose mixture of damp whitewash & dust oozed drops of moisture. There were several heaps of sand & bags of cement ready to be mixed to concrete the floor; as yet raw earth.
Outside on a concrete slab, to the west of the stone hut, a long plank had been balanced on a yellow tin drum that had a grey-blue band with black dashes painted next to its rim. Twelve gutted & salted haddock were drying on it in the wind. They were never eaten & slowly became putrid yet odourless & their flesh retained a delicate pink colour. Near another pile of sand she stood with her back to me, weight on one foot, red woolen stockings rising into a home-made fitted flower patterned dress with a back zip from collar to the base of her spine, arms loose by her sides; dark hair swept into a short plaited tail. Why there was a large wet pebble a good yard from the drum, which stood on the edge of a damp circle where concrete had been mixed, I don’t know. The shadow cast from the shelf of fish ran over a wooden door on its side leaning against the wall with irregular patches of orange lichen flaking in the unusual heat. A breeze flapped the short flair of the dress hem & out on the loch a dark blue patch of water appeared for a few seconds.
A snipe was haunting the milky moonlight; cloud shadows imploded, raggedly thrown on the massive boulders of the mountainside. They were rapidly torn out to sea by the rising gale.
I blew the candle out but didn’t go for her body.
She sat up abruptly & cracked her head in a beam. We slept in the roof space.
I re-lit the candle. She stumbled awkwardly over the tie beams towards where I lay buried in a pile of bedding.
Do I want her? Do I want him? But we were already asleep.
The netsuke was a squeezed brown cinder of ivory. I could just make out the figure of a woman entrapped in the coils of a dragon's tail amongst what might have been clouds of fiery breath. But in the fine swirls as well, when the clouds changed to waves was a crayfish chasing a man.
At first glance on the Rembrant etching displayed in the corner I saw, to my surprise, a delicate, tiny figure, a nude female reclining looking to the left in the direction of the artist’s self-portrait. This woman was drawn with a few fine lines at the edge of the sheet & to the side of a small blur of marks that later resolved into a peasant woman’s head. This figure then became her scarf.
Over an isolated archaeological site it was SLEETING hardly clouding a pale natural light reflecting off the marble that shone on the woman's ash coloured hair as she turned to the sombre man caught now in a maze of fallen masonry below the three remaining gigantic heads of the temple's frieze. A white scurf of lichen gave the carvings' cheeks a childlike bloom. And the inwardness of each Gorgon's trance was uncannily reflected in the finely chiselled emptiness of her gaze. She clearly wanted something, so at first all her movements were over-laid with a calculated meticulousness that initially could have been mistaken for naturalness.
"Tell me, how did she make him hand over the gift he had so carefully concealed?"
"It was never told." His eyes had followed her expressive hand as it plucked towards his arm. The fingers gently alighted on his wrist & pushed.
"Force?" Both of her arms dropped in surrender.
He guffawed & choked. "Persuasive . . . barbaric . . . you think they acted like that?" But he had been caught in the sexual undertow.
She merely nodded; words were superfluous for she thought the evidence they had left of their use of poisons & drugs was irrefutable, but asked innocently, "Yet he had traded the secret & kept his word. How?"
"Subterfuge." And his abrupt gesture placing his hands close together emphasised the meaninglessness here of that word. And the way his glance chopped the curve of her neck ruffled her slightly. She rearranged the filmy scarf that was held by a snake knot under her chin with a calming deliberateness.
"Or?" She tried disarmingly.
"Use your imagination." He countered; again inexact. He couldn't find a simple word that didn't sap the strength of the maelstrom of images now exposed when called on to explain this episode about which he understood so little.
"But surely the treasure is the image of a woman?" She persisted, but cast a look to one side as if hoping for an ally.
"She was like us. A figure of string & dirt. No more than that."
"But by cutting it down to as little as that, can you find what you want? You only eliminate all the richness you seem to want." She turned her foot towards him.
"Or find more . . . "
"That way. More?" She shrugged her disbelief.
"Not so for him. There doesn't seem to have been much value placed by that fool on those . . .” She paused to clear the anger from her head, then continued coolly, “cheapskates over the years. Except, by some kind of twist, for barter" She deliberately struck the first discordant note between them. "Did she ask for a kiss?" She asked, hoping to take him by surprise & yet disarm him by the way she lisped the word ask.
"To heal the wound of his absence. Once & for all." He parried. He was sure.
She turned grimacing, although her thought had been incomplete she wouldn't have said that. "She never fell in love. She was never able to go that far."
"She waited. She believed it could grow . . . she hoped . . . she fooled herself."
"Perhaps he wanted their love to blossom . . . hoped?" She almost held her breath as he stepped closer.
"And it was here, that's when she got the idea?" To appear nonchalant he bent over slowly to examine the blue haze of a flower in which her feet nestled beside the block of marble. There was also a scattering of peonies in bloom. She cupped her hands over her ears as if not wanting to hear.