Little ripples : Two men stand and look down
at the paving slabs, which have been cleaned again
this morning. Water, stretched as thinly as it can
establishes a pattern of rivulets to reach the drains.
A woman quite near, though, surrounded by a puddle
of bubbling pigeons, does not seem aware this was the place.
On the other corner, among the crowd at traffic lights
a roving camera and a man with a microphone
are trying to pick up the old scent of pain.
I have assisted at the death of worlds.
I note that the matter of the present rarely leaves them time
to think about their ends. All their complaints are hurled
into the teeth of momentary pains, their cunning spent
on tiny stratagems or large but vague designs
against a swarm of situation. They seem mostly unaware
that while the symptoms are unquestionably unpleasant,
the disease is fatal; and the reason for their violent dislike
of those who will in fact be coming into their threadbare
inheritance. They simply have the feeling there are some
about them bad at keeping their impatience down. They wear a striking
look of self-congratulation, punctured now and then, by hurt astonishment.
But mostly they just carry on as if they only need redeem
the ages from the pawn of history, and their descendants can return
with the same furniture, to live on in their residence
of suppositions. Dying seems rather difficult to learn.
Lucky the living bringing everything they lost
forever. No-one is dead. There are no past
or future universes to regret°° or long for; no
departed parents, absent loved-ones, missing
friends. Whatever was ever beautiful, desired or known
is now alive in us and nowhere else. And only void
which is not us around us : those un-listening
silences with nothing to demand of us but hold
these precious species all about to be destroyed
in some piece of pre-history; the peoples of an old
time coming into flower; this morning's flowers
that come to people us in passing garlands of the hours.
ST OULIO OF TAMPA.
St Oulio of Tampa, on the day after the battle,
went round waking up the dead lads, taking their confessions.
Down the shambled lanes, along the river bank where fighting
had been fiercest, underneath the wrecked bridge upstream. The old ladies
crying and praying in black shawls. He would hear the mea culpas
and then offer them the beggar's gift of comfort, working in whispers
through the wind-borne indignation of the seagulls and the women's
mostly distant lamentations. After all, what comfort can the living
give to those Death seizes ? Never-the-less he heard the same thing murmured
time and time again : Thanks anchorite, I am grateful for a little
more of being alive, although my wounds have woken with me,
because everything is just as injured as it was. Even the usual small
irritations and dissatisfactions settle back in swarms.
But thank you anyway. I know there is no well way I can
be now. I look around and there are the survivors
smug and upright. They have already come down in a cloud
and taken up possession. They have dismembered me.
You seem to have located just enough remaining of me
to arrange this mangled miracle. Never mind.