I drove home through light drained of its power to warm—it slipped over surfaces, unable to sink in, bounced off buildings and tree trunks and leaves; shadows everywhere. Later, pain behind my right eye, and rain on the iron roof after dark.
through last night’s rain
The sun’s just rolled below the western skyline, leaving light the colour of a duck’s egg and the clouds, changing moment by moment, shift through grades of orange and grey and white. The textures are astonishing—here a wild ruffle like a surfer’s sun dried hair; there a scatter of confetti; elsewhere a patterned sheet like muscle beneath skin, a mackerel sky; close to the horizon, long, lenticular clouds as smooth as the cheek of a woman, as a closed eyelid and everything within. One of those curved clouds looks like the profile of a sawfish—that strange creature we used to see sporadically on the wonderful Attenborough narrated natural history documentaries before pay-to-see TV drove them to extinction on the free-to-air channels—a kind of devolution where reality replaces what’s real and adrenaline supplants intelligence.
I sound like a grumpy fossil, a disceptatious dinosaur.
Before my eyes, the sawfish cloud thins and disappears; the space it encompassed fills with a brilliant light which has no colour, like the purest form of nothing. Light only; light without colour; light and nothing more. This makes no sense until you see it.
“Pete speaking,” I said.
It was a woman from the blood bank. She sounded tentative, almost apologetic, which I suppose is understandable when you’re asking someone if it’s all right if you drain a pint or so of their blood. I warmed to her immediately. Before I could say, “yes, of course,” she’d begun to list their opening hours and was wondering whether I could manage to come in some time in the next few weeks.
“Yes, of course,” I said, eager to please, eager she should feel good about the call. “I’ll come in tomorrow morning. I have things to do in town, so I’ll be in anyway,” I lied.
I put the phone down, sat back, and listened to the music filling the room. When it ended, I picked a book from the shelves, not quite at random but more or less haphazardly. I opened it.
“There, still, we have magic adventures, more wonderful than any I have told you about; but now, when we wake up in the morning, they are gone before we can catch hold of them. How did the last one begin? ‘One day when Pooh was walking the Forest, there were one hundred and seven cows on a gate...’ No, you see, we have lost it. It was the best, I think.”
I went to bed and dreamed of things I don't remember.
1. Perhaps the short poem is or is not a haiku, depending on what you believe haiku to be. For me, it's more about quality than form and structure, and the obsession with 5-7-5 syllables is irrelevant. In any case, it's based on the confusion of onji with the western syllable. Cyril Childs, editor of both NZ haiku anthologies summed it up perfectly when he said that focusing on the structure of haiku is like focusing on the cage that surrounds the singing bird. Whatever mine is, I hope it sings for you.
2. Yellowhammer: Emberiza citrinella. Another of those introduced birds no one seems to know or care much about.
3. When I donated today, I asked, and was told they take 470 ml. So, for the pedantic, it's only about 3/4 of a pint.
4. The quote, if you haven't already guessed, is from A.A. Milne's The House at Pooh Corner, in the Contradiction.
Photo 1: I pass this shed twice, every time I make a trip into town and back.
Photo 2: Posting photos of me seems pretentious, but I'm getting bored with the other photos and I suspect people are vaguely curious by nature. Whatever.
Photos and words © 2006 Pete McGregor