II . xi

 

-----‘When with an open mind I approach the person unknown, I am certain of one thing only; that I shall never withdraw from the figure of his presence. I had not known, until today, the nature of an open mind —never approached the man unknown: Iesso, if one of us must move, it should be you: why do you not leave this narrow place?’
-----Gesso stood against the fireplace. He did not turn his head towards her, making no attempt to find the fact that lay behind her question, looking down the room to the door, pushed half-open by the wind, furthest from the window and now in darkness.
-----Mima sat silently with her hands folded together in her lap, looking at Gesso. She drew her breath and turned her head away.
-----‘I must leave,’ said Gesso, ‘Days and orders are changed, fields and towns lie well within the past, each language I have learned, in the diverse places, has carried unseen the sense where the person and his stead are made; now there is no making; I look up to the heath, and know that language is about to go, the place that I have called a place will go, the named man is the stranger.’
-----The image of the heath, the undulating moor, the low line of the birch-wood at the edge of sight, the night about to fall, the ruffled waters, the form of the sky’s edge, the deep irregular bell, soon to stop in its sounding, to begin no more, close, now, now at the edge of dusk and distance, certain, now imagined, indifferent to its apprehension, its source a thing of shifting elements, Mima close to him, himself without wisdom, blood on his clothing, fugitive in the rain, himself close to Mima, name about to go, a quarter of a mile on the track, close to one another, maybe as one, the low sky, the horizon obscured by mist, in turmoil across the land, the night about to fall, the figure, seen in distance, his father, naked in age, not to be so recognized, through the mist, the quick thorn to the bare bone, the seer alone, the man on the heath.
Even this will change.
-----A horse, a fast rider with a purpose, following no path, directed by a forward vision beyond the place, as though he rode through voids, across the moor, no doubt a messenger, a mortal man, not yet realized, no doubt on the moor a gallows for a hanging, the sound of the flight of the horseman heard, the sound diminishing, soon, for all its clarity, the hoofbeat on the earth, it would be gone, then present only in the recall, and then gone, from even that, not even in the rider’s memory, nor even in the mind of the cause who had sent the man, nor yet in the effect, which had received the man, the messenger gone, the distant sound of the wind, scarce a beginning, the sound of the wind, in the thornbush, nothing like it, perhaps the only bush, perhaps the only meetingplace, in winter, nothing of the man within it, whose heart is so like a man’s, as filled with life as the stranger in the dawn, rests beneath its midday shade in summer, leaves it to the night-winds when the day is done. Everything of man there is within it, no chronicle of thought within the mind, name gone, for the best, the made place not even strange, not even there.
-----Less light, left, for a little, the little light from the high window, not dispersed within, reduced, the ray contracting, as he looked, so little remains, can’t relinquish it, stance of body shifts, tense with it, of which, unsure, still to come, looked at the light, someone other in the room, her eyes turned to him, did no more than wait, his form the form of one who waits, for what, the flat of the hand run upon the slate of the mantel’s top, uneven, the aberrations in its surface, eyes closed, unevennesses easier to feel with the moving hand, invisible to the eye, days, fingers across the broad surface, the shallow gradient, felt only by the moving hand, opening the eyes, nights, the light diminished, the seeing giving less, at this late hour withdrawn, the mantel for the moment within sight’s employment, fingers leaving the marks, in the dust, and to what purpose, the dust unfelt by the moving hand, but clear to the eye, its reach drawing back, the mark at the edge of hardness. How the senses find their complement. Tense changes. Sight goes, feeling being born, in the night. How the sense diversifies. He drew his breath. What more can she say? What more can I say? No more. He turned, to see here, beneath the window, her hands only to be seen, folded one within another. His own body, clothes made for another, how much weight I have lost, how much the substance gone, a thin form even to myself, looked away from himself, still aware, of himself, eyes large, might as well be closed, observant, were there movement of anything beyond the light, no sound, two people breathing, a little sound, the empty grate, hearth plain, lime mortar, stained black, the mantel’s pillars of wood, much battered, by the days, painted white, or near white, paint now in flakes, leaden white, knocked by day and night, priming pain beneath, and the paint of other times, other colours, not now seen, and the bare wood, old damage dark, recent hurt yellow, splintered, pitch-pine, and the nails where the pillars were fastened to the masonry, the castiron of the fireplace, narrow aperture with half-arch over, corded decoration, rusted pediment resting on the stone, rain streaking tearfully the firefront, succession of the winters, a little light still on the plasterwork above, the chimneybreast, broken now, hair and lime, here and there the plaster gone, the brick-courses, local yellows, lime mortar, horsehair, thicknesses inconstant, the confines of the dark detaining-place, no other. Why did he feel at ease standing in front of this fireplace? He was not at ease. Why did he not wish to leave it? He wished to leave it. Why did he hesitate in leaving it? He sought no more commissions. Why did he not take so much as a single step? At the end one does not temporize. The window’s embrasure, in the unplastered wall, not so much as a single step. A ray of sunlight, reddish and faint, fell, through the glass, lighting the dust, entering, penetrating the room, the earth turning a little, the ray moving also, sight and time, to look was to make the hair rise up, the sight of the reddening ray, other colours going, shades gathering, light draining, deepening by the second, resting faintly on the plaster of the chimneybreast, the wall where the bricks were revealed, at the edge of dilapidating night, brightening a little, fading, passing onward, withdrawing, deepening, the chasm’s sides knit again together.
-----Gesso enacted a few steps of a strangely ordered dance in the light which fell from the window: a hopeless and erotic pace. From his movements (one would not have thought his body and his limbs so graceful) his age the end of youthfulness, and indeed the end of enquiry: this, the freespirit Gesso’s dance at the end of enquiry.
-----Within a pace they were on one another’s arms, her wide eyes filled with fear, someone had been looking into the room, she held Gesso yet more closely, as though driven by the fear of loss. Oh, that will go. They looked up together, wide eyed, heads together, as one, eyes unblinking, two animals, startled, as by a sudden light: there was no light, but the dark was not complete, no, the dark was not complete.

 


 

III . i

 

-----—Why do you so earnestly seek him?
-----—What image of him do you hold, what little of him do you have knowledge of, that you wish to meet him face to face?
-----—What has he done to you, that you wish to speak with him? If his history makes you what you are, what does that mean to him?
-----—Stand and look about you; examine the world as it presently surrounds you. Do you think your search for him will make order of the place in which you are? Where do you come from and where do you go? Shall apportioning a name to him be the measure of your accomplishment?


[An extract from Days and Orders by David Wheldon]

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