Over the last week or so, I’ve been working on a song with the brilliant Marina Florance. This is probably the most complex song we’ve worked on together, and it’s really interesting from the point of view that song-writing requires even more conciseness and precision than poetry (and don’t sound like their concise or precise). Like all writing that looks and sounds effortless and simple, it’s the total opposite. And it’s a long and fascinating process. Of course, we always run the risk of deciding to bin these songs even after putting lots of work into them!
When we still lived in Stradbroke, I used to set myself linguistic/language conundrums on my daily walks. Because they tended to appear out of nowhere about a third of the way into any walk, I’d totally forget about them by the time I got home, and so it would take me weeks (or even months) until I finally still had them in my head when I got back to my shelf full of dictionaries (and here, at the moment, I only have half of my dictionaries/thesauri to hand). For some reason, I remembered this on my walk yesterday, probably because I walked past the landing window of a block of flats, and the exact same event was taking place on that landing as had been the day before (woman leaning in through door of ground floor flat with cigarette in trailing left hand which was still outside the flat while her right hand/arm was in the flat – you get the picture, I hope), and I muttered a bastardised combination of French and Norwegian for “the same as yesterday.” And then my brain went off down the slippery slope of wondering about Grimmsche Lautverschiebung (Grimm’s Sound Shift) and asking myself if “som” (“like” in Norwegian) had been a sound shift from “comme” (“like” in French). An etymological conundrum that I suppose I will research at some point. I’m not going to do it now, because messing with song phrases, writing work emails, and trying to pacify my racing mind are all a bit more important.
There is at least on poem translation I haven’t done yet that I was going to, but that, too, will have to wait. I realise now that I don’t stand a chance of finishing The Mortality Code before we go on holiday unless I work on it to the exclusion of everything else in my non-working hours. Focus, focus. Except life’s too precious to focus. One of my favourite songs (Belgique, Belgique by Friedrich Liechtenstein, which O introduced me to) finishes “Das Leben kann sehr kurz sein, wenn man sich auf zu wenig Dinge konzentriert.” That literally translates as “Life can be very short if you concentrate on too few things.”
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 105
‘I know demons,’ Robert says, empties his glass. ‘I suppose I should lead by example and go to bed.’
‘Restlessness is a demon, too,’ Aggie says.
Robert laughs. ‘You are a wise one.’
‘Just normal.’ She raises her hand to stop him from speaking. ‘Make sure you lock up. See you in the morning.’
Robert takes her left hand, bows down to leave just fractions of air between his lips and her skin. ‘Madam.’ He stands up straight again.
Aggie smiles. ‘That’s my line.’ She disappears up the stairs, her tread ever so soft for such large feet, her gait so elegant for the giant she sees herself as. No giggling, no sheets rustling, no creaking. Just darkness and silence. Just the afterglow of something so few people ever find, and if they do find it it never lasts. If only she could remember the face of the boy who loved her, and whom she was torn away from, whose child was torn away from her. Her womb aches as she takes the next staircase two steps at a time, the last couple of leaps taking her to the top. The door is half-open, and she slips in through the gap. Anna’s breathing, deep now and regular, falls into her consciousness like a flurry of white feathers, settles and covers her in comfort as she takes off her boots and shirt, and slides under the duvet. She can feel Anna’s heat, Anna’s own afterglow, and remnants of Zav’s perfume. She stares up at the ceiling that would be invisible to most sets of eyes, and smiles. ‘Idiot,’ she says to the sleeping shape next to her, and closes her eyes.
Shapes play games behind her eyelids. Scottish accents, broad men, the hint of snow that turns into nothing more than sleet and slush. The hammering of rivets through metal, the hiss of welding, the sparks of hot metal that slice through early morning apathy, the grey sea lapping at the shingle, the indeterminable distance to the horizon, the horizon that drifts across the edges of vision, and the questions beyond. The snow, somewhere else, rising from the ground rather than falling, time winding backwards, her rising, blood flowing inwards, hands cleansing themselves, wounds fixing themselves from the inside, all reverse motion, seconds and minutes falling in on themselves, repairing what has passed, what has happened, now becoming what will be, and her body, whole again, rising, head first, from the now spotless white landscape, the field untouched, and the snow still rising, and her shadow walking backwards to the ditch at the side of the field, and jumping, shoulders first, over the fence, landing squarely on the other side, solid feet on solid ground, the mist of her breath flowing back into her in an inhalation of old life. She feels the energy. This is what it was like before I died, she thinks, puts her hands on her belly, feels the slight convexity of it, a semblance of movement under the skin, a translucent face, tumbling and turning, acrobatic amniotic child-never-to-be. Backwards, backwards. Hours and days and weeks and months reeled in through microseconds. A tiny flat, a wooden shack, a comfortable room with carpets covering the walls, a square, a cube, a sanctuary, and brown arms holding her tight, a beautiful boy’s face on her chest, her tiny skinny arms holding him tight to her, that first love, that lost love, that gone love, that betrayed love. She never understood what was behind those eyes, in that head, under that smooth scarless skin, until she reached his hands covered in callouses and burns and, as it turned out, murder. His black hair, his blue eyes, his perfection. All on the outside. Never judge by what’s outside. It could all be lies, and what’s within is always a secret.
A pain, a hot knife in her stomach, rips open her eyes.