“Pain. A word with no anagrams. Indivisible. Unchangeable. Period. It begins with pain. It ends with pain — interspersed with windows casting shafts of strange-coloured light. Mindless, morphinic, mendacious illuminism. Even the end of the tunnel is just another window.”
These were the words he scribbled in his tattered notebook in the halflight, as the sun fell below the horizon.
“Even a sunset is a lie”, he thought, as he scratched with a shadow of a smile onto the dirty, dog-eared page. He traced the thought to its conclusion. “A setting sun speaks of beauty and self-motion to the untrained ear — but if you really listen with all your heart, the whole creation cries out in concordant cacophany, and the earth revolves in grisly isolation on its own axis. A sunset is a catastrophe”.
He quickly squeezed some little lines out of his thoughts:
It is not the sun which sets
but the earth which lets
the sun appear
to move on down
and disappear below
He looked up slowly, as if bewildered by his own ideas. A dawn in a sunset. “All of life is like that too”, he mooned. “What you see is never what you get. You have to be on your toes to get it”.
As the light dwindled to darkness, he closed his notebook and placed it inside his shirt pocket. Some blood had stuck the cloth to his skin and dried. These were forbidden thoughts.
Forbidden. So much seemed to be forbidden. The very word itself was like the sound of a prison door closing shut — that central syllable spitting itself in your face like some cocky delinquent. Even joy, dreams and the highest love would soon be barred from normal human experience.
How had it all come to this?
Flashback: a conversation with his mother as they travelled on a bus across the bleak city terrain. “Why am I me and no one else?” said the six year old lad. “You are a funny boy”, said the painted face with a patronising smile and the accent on the word “are”. That was it. Period. “Why am I me and no one else?” The noanswerness of that moment was the fuel which formed the (w)hole of his life.
Suddenly, the sound of dogs cut through the sunset stillness. He had to move. Always moving. Even that was a lie, he thought. For wherever he went, nothing changed. The hunters still hunted — and the hole still hovered, blackly.
He fumbled again for his notebook. He remembered when it was new, when he had looked at it fondly and said “one day you will be dog-eared and dimpled, filled with substance and inconsequence, like an obese cadaver on a mortuary slab”. He noticed some words scratched into the back page from an inkless pen. He swathed his pencil lightly over the markings and the words revealed their sting:
I am the hypocrite of a thousand petals
The hole of my life is the grimace
of a skull cocooned in parchment
I am a ragged flower
A hybrid of deadly nightshade
Of foxglove phantasies
Of morning glory
Of unfantastic screeds of dream
I dwell in the suburbs of hell
But fly with empyrean prayer
to a place that cannot be named
where I suffocate on mercy
where happiness is not for once a dirty word
but where I cannot rest nor ever will
despite my being by some strands enthralled
or so it seems while swallowing
the bitter pillbox ghost
my hourly dose of gall
He remembered the precise moments when those ideas first came into being. He had not been especially blue (or grey [or green]), but the words just tumbled from his mind like grains of salt being ground onto the page with a dirty, honest thumb.
He had nothing. (No one does). But one thing in his sea he knew was his. It could not be held or seen though it saved and rescued — paved the way for rapturous musings day by day. How to describe it! Let’s just say it had the colour of a smile and the sudden of a gasp and it stretched from one end of the world’s face to the other. It derived from within yet it loomed from without and it lived in the corner of his eye. If I were to put it in another way, he shared a little joke with the sky.
He put his notebook in the tree, hung his coat in the breeze and let his wings take him home.
© Alan Morrison, 2013