I still don’t know what form the Wuppertal experience will take, but writing this post has made me curious once more about this unusual city and my encounters during the visit. I went there to watch Kontakthof, a performance about meetings between people, but I came away with the feeling that I was in such a performance, and others were watching me.
Could I tame the creature that steals birds’ corn, could I
cage her, set a wee wheel in motion for the rat?
Who can harm such industry, close her bright brown eyes?
I set bait, hope the lure doesn’t take my brown rat.
I have translated only a little. That tone is hard to strike as well as keeping form. It is colloquial, romantic yet firmly rooted in realism. […]
Fat drops of rain on the roof,
Cluck on old hen, brood me time,
hatch me some of that.
I’ve reached the Sphinx’s three-legged afternoon.
I hobble and my hip gives voice
with every thump of my cane.
How did those thumping men —
Ahab of the scrimshaw leg,
Long John Silver with parrot and crutch—
find the energy for obsession?
If books are being reinvented today, it is not because digital technology has permitted their liberation from print. No, quite the opposite, digital technology is built on text. As always in the human story, imagination and writing are the instruments of creation.
I heard a comment on the radio that very little survives of Dickens’ London. Statistically, I am sure that this is true. But I was once walking South of the Thames when I passed under a wet, black bridge and was suddenly struck by a panicked sense of evil. I almost ran out into the daylight. By a set of dripping steps, I saw a plaque. Here, in ‘Oliver Twist’, Dickens set the murder of Nancy, by Bill Sykes. So some of Dickens’ places do remain.
Dickens’ descriptions of London are, of course, not photographs, but selections, from Dickens’ roving eye. What would Dickens see today? He would see Canary Wharf, but he would also see the immigrant workers with no papers, sleeping in the streets behind Victoria Coach Station. I do not think he would be impressed – perhaps appalled – but still, fascinated. And blogs? He would have had six of them.
His left eye was completely gone. The skin around his right eye hung in deep folds beneath it, the lower eyelid stretched and turned outward, weeping, a dark red color– the same deep red as the stone we had just bought. Out of that horrible socket, though, his eye slowly focused on my face as I held onto it with my own gaze. Bonjour, Monsieur, comment ça va, I said softly, and watched the light in his eye brighten ever so slightly. It was as if he — the man inside this ravaged body — were swimming up from a great depth, having almost forgotten how. We looked at each other, and something like a smile formed on his face. Merci, he said. Merci.
What should they do for their megrims,
lethargy, catarrh, lumbago, vertigo?
I can only tell them there is no cure
for ordinary good health, the discomforts
life offers gamely.
You see Nighthawks, and I look across,
past the canvas’s edge, to the other side of the room.
Eddie squeezed in, angled uncomfortably over Jo.
The smell of hot oil & coffee, the roar of politeness.
The thing is, the realization that death is death is immensely comforting. Were there an off-world heaven to which the dead, non-corporeal me was consigned, I’d do my best to obtain conscientious objector status. I love this planet: why would I want to spend a conscious eternity looking at it through a veil of gauzy clouds? Far better to ooze, insensate, into the world, to become part of the tree’s flesh and the coyote’s fur and the bighorn’s helmet.