The beloved dogs are all sitting under a custard apple tree on a damp morning. Satchi looks like crumpled black velvet or soft coal, yawning, his long pink tongue swallowing up the garden. His dog turds could fertilize the universe. The custard apple tree is fruiting and there will be heavy crocodile-skinned fruit in autumn, pale and sweetish-tart on the inside.
From an email that failed to deliver itself, my sad Internet misconnections:
An interesting question – what frightens us enough to wake up and think ‘enough is enough’?
Those moments when we suddenly think ‘I can’t go on like this’ or ‘I’m going to die if I don’t stop’ are worth their weight in gold because they interrupt the holding pattern of feeling some shame, feeling ill, wanting to drink, drinking, feeling ill, feeling some shame, wanting to drink, drinking again, etc.
Years ago I saw a woman, quite old and dirty and dishevelled, drop a two-litre jug of wine outside the bottle store in a grubby part of the city. The bottle broke, wine spilled onto the pavement and she tried to scoop it up in her hands and drink some. Oblivious of watchers, indifferent. I remember thinking she was worse than me and wondering if I would ever go far enough down the road to be like that. It was curiosity but only just tinged with fear, not nearly enough fear to make me not go into the same bottle store that same afternoon, her being worse off and much further down the grey swampy road than me, although I might have done that same scooping if I had broken a wine bottle in my own kitchen with nobody watching. What happened when I was alone was not real, did not matter so long as nobody knew about it. That was how little I thought of myself as existing beyond the drive to escape.
Reading a translation by the American poet Elizabeth Bishop of the poem Travelling in the Family by Carlos Drummond de Andrade:
There were distinct silences
deep within his silence.
There was my deaf grandfather
hearing the painted birds
on the ceiling of the church;
my own lack of friends;
and your lack of kisses;
there were our difficult lives
and a great separation
in the little space of the room.
The narrow space of life
crowds me up against you,
and in this ghostly embrace
it’s as if I were being burned
completely, with poignant love.
Only now do we know each other!
Eye-glasses, memories, portraits
flow in the river of blood.
Now the waters won’t let me
make out your distant face,
distant by seventy years…
Has Tripoli fallen yet? Drawing back the living room curtains so that I can see japonica and pelagoniums, a shrub with tiny lemony flowers. The poet Elizabeth Bishop, alcoholic, lesbian, shy, retiring, outspoken, a contradiction in herself, prized ‘accuracy, spontaneity, mystery’ in art, and who would not be drawn to that as the world churns into deeper turmoil? The cold weather is sneaky but bracing.
Poignant love, I say to myself and go on writing at the old yellowwood desk, turning straw into gold or vice versa.