Richard Pierce


Day 119


We were oblivious
To each other, the blackbird
And I. It hid behind the empty
Plant pot, I strolled through
The garden, unseeing, mind
On the greyness, the
Luck we had with the Easter
Weather weeks ago, the unusual
Miracle of warmth when the world
Slowed a little for us. Back
To normal now, again
Winter claws out and clouds
Heavy with disaster and dark.
The bird, fluffy with
Youth and inexperience, as
Slow as tight fingers on
The keyboard in silence,
Idea before music, words
Before sound, the bird yellow
With beak, and eyes
Closed, comfortable with
The seeds and worms from the hard
Ground, and inadvertent
Hiding, didn’t see
Me until my nth
Circuit of the small patch
Of land at the top of
This hill, trees around,
More trees a short bird’s
Flight away, eyes open
Suddenly, instinct alive,
Alive, flutter, wing, quiet
Escape up onto the fence,
Scrape beak clean, stare
Again at the strange biped
Staring and wishing for two
Skinny feet on outstretched
Arm. In the distance,
A rumble as the plane lifts
Into metallic flight with
Lucky people on
Their way to heat and
Holidays. A last look,
And the bird is gone.



‘Have you ever been happy?’ Robert says, quietly. To the others, loudly ‘Just wander around. Don’t be shy.’

‘I think so,’ Aggie says. She tells him about her evenings in the kitchen, looking out at Norwich Cathedral, of the sun coming in through the windows on the late summer evenings, of the yellow light stampeding across from the old building in the winter, the reflected floodlights making her warm, the cosiness of the solitude when Sir and Madam (she even uses those words again, for the first time in what seems like an age) weren’t there, of the nameless days spent in the nameless house with nameless other people (though she doesn’t mention the mentor nor her wounds nor the disappeared baby nor the snow nor the yawning chasm of memorylessness before then and since then) laughing and being carefree for moments before being dragged back to reality by the need to win, to excel, to work, to exercise, to be perfect and complete. She doesn’t mention that night she shot Anna, doesn’t talk about the secret hidden part of herself that has resolved never to kill, nor her hatred of herself and her shape and size and wish for sleep, eternal sleep, forever sleep, forever dark and quiet and nothing.

‘Life can be too much,’ he says, as if he’s reading between her lines. ‘That’s why I love being here. It’s so huge I forget myself, forget all the pain and effort.’ He looks up at her. ‘And even though it sounds godless, in some ways, this is where I have no duty, at least not in the dark. When it’s light, I sing my adoration of God and give and take the sacrament. But when it’s dark…’

‘When it’s dark?’

‘I thought I felt something fly past. Birds can sometimes get lost in here.’

‘When it’s dark, what?’

‘I pluck notes from out of the air, rise to some great height, to reach them hanging up there under the ceiling, out of reach to normal mortals, and grab them in my hands, and bring them down here, and put them into the cauldron of my mind, and become an alchemist who changes their very nature so they become songs and anthems and hymns and landscapes.’ He stops, shuffles his feet on the stones. ‘Yes, landscapes, not soundscapes. They become physical, and my power over them, and I don’t know where it comes from, makes them real. And people tell me when they hear them they see what I want them to see, and so the hearing become seeing.’

‘Why are you telling me this?’ Aggie keeps her strides short, her feet in their boots with the pressure of the stiletto against her right calf, light so no sound can disrupt the silence she feels in here, in herself.

‘You are so simpatico, my dear Aggie,’ he says without mockery. ‘And you’ve spent so much time with Cassie, so much time that I’ve never had.’

‘I’m her maid,’ Aggie says dully, by rote, by memory, by compulsion, by necessity.

‘That’s not what you think, and that’s not what she thinks,’ Robert says. ‘That’s why she called you. To wake you up. To send you up here, to get away from Valentine.’

They’re standing in front of the Great East Window now, the lights outside highlighting blues and crimsons and whites, praying hands and bishops’ staffs.

‘It makes me feel tiny,’ Aggie says.

‘But you are, my girl, you are,’ Robert says, puts a gentle hand on her head and blesses her.

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