For an evening doubt and worry were held at bay. Next morning fatigue had me in its slobbering mouth again, brought forcibly sequestered days – energies dispersed, functions reduced, cognition etherised. A nosedive deep into my own shadow, where ‘I’ is a question, apprehended (and prepared for); no matter: disbelieved. How can such a joyful and affirming time, where nary a limb was moved, exhaust me so? As is their wont: instances of confidence are cut adrift; and later, when I reach to pull them back, my fingers dip in salt.
It is as if fatigue were out to claim your core. Achievements (so rare, so small) and moments of communion sink like pretzels in a puddle. All body now, banned from the realm of verbs and tenses, you wait, till something rises, a line or two, a riddle: Other and oughter. This is where he broughter.
Some of my art is in the world (thanks to friendly hands), and some of my words were read, spoken, heard last week, at the Poetry Café in London, where a friend swung a FaceTime window wide, and I, propped up in bed, looked and listened in, as she (for me), and other writers, offered poems, stories, textlings to receptive ears. Multiple voices, finely crafted utterance, joyfully (and with a little apprehension) shared; connection, communion – here lies happiness.
For an evening I peered as if through a porthole on a sinking ship, while welfare cuts and threats to care beat on the hull like monster waves and bear on grinning crests their promises of hindrance, hardship, battening down. Mutabor, mutabor, I cry, and wait (like caliph and his grand vizier) to find myself recast, with utmost urgency: back in shape, the shape I departed from, upright, walking, working, following my art into the world.
I long for many things, outings, encounters, verticality, clever hands, travel to foreign lands, and – inflecting all – the ability to amble, move about without aim, make discoveries. During one of my tottering pre-dawn garden walks my bedroom window beckoned with its warm yellow glow. I peered inside, almost with surprise, and certainly pleasure, reviewed the crumpled pile of bright red bedding, the cramped book-shelves sprinkled with art, and five hairy maidens cavorting on the wall. I have (but don’t own) a home!
I am sleeping (and not rough), can reach the furthest corners of my flat, and, occasionally even after sunrise, the garden, where a potted magnolia throws flowers forth from furry buds which should spring anima, little souls, waiting to curl and clamour in one’s hand before ramming tiny, sharply chiseled teeth into the softest bit at the root of one’s thumb.
My activities tend towards the microscopic. Wishing doesn’t. It pains me to admit it, but there are times when pathos rules. One day, almost delirious with fatigue, I had a vision of myself as a cheerless figure on Oxford Street bearing a poster on a stick: READ ME. Allow me to redress: let me walk on a beach, sans placard, of course, or sit in animated conversation at Le Café de Flore, Paris, sharing croissants and café noir. Still: Ici s’agitent des ombres (pardon my French). Je les salue.
In-the-world-time needs deliberation and support, and a sofa at the other end. Over the years I have reposed on floors in kitchens, pharmacies, galleries, waiting rooms and niches in hospital hallways; on sofas and benches in a restaurant, a museum, a theatre (for a whole performance!), at a wedding, and for most of Xmas-dinner at the house of friends.
My rarefied and somewhat extravagant emergences (a little ‘i’ is ready to insert itself) precipitate slippages into the land of fuzz: arms can’t be lifted and you sleep in your clothes; speech comes through a mouthful of grit; eyes don’t focus; hands don’t hold; you forget where you live… Worst though: the depth of exhaustion invariably strips away layers of selfhood, of history, of confidence.
I resemble the creaking pendulum of a fallen grandfather clock which after every upward swing drops heavily and doesn’t come up again until, coughing and wheezing, new momentum has been gathered. It takes its sweet old time, and dreams horizons, dotted with digital dials.