By haphazard, I find them in all weathers — these giant-magnificent eagle feathers — and at all times outdoors I must look exactly where I am going since there is no way of knowing, ever, how or when I will find the next one. Sometime, the rare quills come trundling across bare dirt in the wind; sometimes, wedged — or pinned — they slant in spiked razor grass; or sit still in the close-knit, twig-meshed cage of some dead shrub. Whatever the case, these are the wages paid out at random by mystery, tokens of a rippling altitude that will always seem far beyond me, who am Earth-bound, by nature. Yet, vicariously, I can ripple after a fashion to this exclamation-marked treasure, humbled, astonished, to the pink grave core —in equal measure —
and consequently turned out of this world robuster towards the sun.
Nathan Prayre stares inwards from an odd angle at himself: Who is this stranger stronger in conscious than me? He minds the abrupt unwelcome of all the personality’s lame haberdashery — is this the desert of forty days once so faithfully promised in scripture? Awake by night to a stray patch of phantom glow on his bedroom wall and the work of laboured breath, he prays for tears — or sleep — or comfort in precisely that order, pleading to the active no one in himself for the chance of a trace of a truce with non-human human-being or even some ever-so-slight side-benefit of the doubt.
In eight months the new house assimilates the jangled stranger.
But, now and then, random olfactory flashbacks come banging down the doors of second nature’s numb fortress.
Forgotten unforgettable conjunctions of brick-, paint-, timber-, cement-, corrugated-iron-, cloth-, soil-, and garden-smells reanimate those early impressionable days of first acquaintance.
How odd to lose touch — thanks to daily close contact — with intense networks of such visceral-physical fact!
Buried memories surface through gaps in inattention to the fanfare of tingling, dumbfounded nerves.
(Awareness in its high-beam headlights gets so easily lost in a tunnel vision’s on-rushing detail . . . )
Fortunately, unnoticed, something sensitive in us registers out of turn the world’s appeal to the body and takes life-pleasure in disrupting by means of involuntary recollection thought’s endless, teeming, habitually dogged ant-lines.
You’re only the spire. You don’t ever touch down right to the foundations. “Upwards” is a word you may often happen to take seriously. The vista seems to shape itself — flawless — all around you, its beauty one unbroken ring. “Centre” and “circumference” inevitably creep into your thoughts as well as values and, on the whole, you can’t help looking down a little. One day, when the physical temple starts to rot, belatedly you will realize just how much extraordinary emptiness exists between you and the actual — neglected — textures of the ground, textures Planet Earth always freely, openly offers.
A cold wind. Standing ovation in the trees — Autumn’s moon-dry rustle of leaf on leaf on leaf. Thunder in the chill brick bridge when trains pass larger than life overhead, white-hot catenary sparks sizzling fresh air with the stink of electric scorch. Then pin-drop quiet, plump as moss, and moss universally shock-absorbing all than could never be green back into greenest tactile patch-working clumps.
I filled my pockets with the weight of a day’s long pain and trudged to the edge of a barnacled pier — not to throw myself off but to kill myself thought by thought by thought to the end of time. I failed in the freeze, as the chill sun set, hopelessly unable to see what I meant, and marooned in that zone between iced and unthawed, where all I could do was to find in myself one thought at a time — and thought by thought to the dead-end of time — a single good reason to come back to life once more. I failed, but in the freeze of twilit sea air and in the canvas quiet of so much intricate natural noise I realized, with my hands, that pockets could never be filled by that sort of emptiness, and that dusk in a way can be another kind of dawn — if you’re lucky — and that home, if you want one, must be built out of nothing with hard-heart-felt questions and barn-nail thinking, thought by thought to the end.
A hovering wasp rippling fine grains of dust with the fierce fan-force of its wings precisely zooms into land by what’s left of a smash-wrecked moth: one large upper flight-panel dappled with antique swirl. Further off, yet another flat piece of debris footnotes blank brick where a post-mortem sun shines on. The wasp now wrestles with its unwieldy catch. Using forelegs and jaws, it bends the sheet neatly in two, all the better to airlift it back home to base, intact — whole hangars there stockpiled with similar, edible, loot.
I feel the new moon long before I see its light scar; hushed is the healing in live air; hope grows its young skin tender within me. I am animal again, the faint stir; the beginning has its unexpected start in me again; I am borrowed by the lush understatement of a Spring instinct; this raining in the blood lives so vividly on my side now.
You couldn’t stand it ― crawling hour after hour down the famished tunnel of your hunger mostly for a mouthful of dust. At first sight, do I rightly get under that skin you are absolutely certain never to wriggle out of? Legless, lipless, no browed, ruthless ― my denudity creepily never fails to unnerve. Of course, I am poison’s Greatest Living Treasure and venomously adverbs every single move I make to the point where I, alone, am the sinuous hairline crack that fractures and flaws even the most generous “Love of Nature”. Slithering or coiled, I bring you lightning Sudden Death, and am always prepared to pull ― despite decades of cautious caretaking ― just that light from under your feet.