Speakers For The Dead
By way of a terrible piece of timing, I have just got back from my daily walk drenched to the skin, and my skin exercised by the hailstorm which preceded the rain while I was out. The two girls who are here, and M, were in stitches as I walked into the kitchen looking as if I had suddenly become incontinent. I guess that’s the only piece of levity from the week that’s just coming to a close.
Despite what you say, I’m not on a real physical frontline. I’m sheltered, economically (well, sort of) and physically, against the virus and against the violence, and it makes me feel uncomfortable to be almost unaccountable because of that shelter. You and I, we’re both watching these fires from afar, and I think, I know, that they’ll soon join up and become an all-encompassing inferno which will burn everyone. Sometimes I think that the powers that be have deliberately engineered this whole situation so that those with a conscience will go out onto the streets and protest, the idea being that they will all catch the virus and be exterminated, and with them democracy and government accountability. It is not beyond the realms of reason to suspect this. It is not beyond the realms of realism to suppose that there are forces at work which would endeavour to ensure that no more free elections will take place in the US and the UK within my life-time. And it’s because of this that I’m not out on the streets right now. I don’t want to walk into the trap of forces so dark that they are truly beyond imagination and fear.
Maybe that is my problem, has always been my problem. I can’t accept that I’m helpless, can’t accept that the actions of one single person cannot change the world, can’t accept that those with power and wealth would like to keep us anonymous, keep us at the bottom end of the food chain. I’ve just had an email from a colleague telling me to relax, that we can pick up what I perceive to be the slack next week, that I should just take it easy over the weekend. And yet I fret, I pace, I smoke excessively, fidget, and try to find things to do, when maybe I should just accept on these days that I can’t fruitfully get any day job work done, that I won’t produce any meaningful poetry or prose or artwork, and that maybe I should just spend a few quiet hours, surrounded by the family that’s here, and sit in a comfy chair and read, or catch up more on Killing Eve, or just watch some entirely mindless TV. I know that M has always had a problem coping with my constant restlessness. A few years ago she told someone she was glad I played cricket on Saturdays and Sundays because it meant I wouldn’t be pacing round the house telling everyone to do something productive. I have got better. I’m not that bad anymore. Therapy has made me understand that self-destructive behaviour – and several visits to a neurologist who told me my permanent headaches were due to nothing more than my obsession with doing, doing, doing. And he had the scans done to prove it. And speaking of neurologists, I’m glad that yours apparently found the same in your scans – nothing. But I worry about you, and your revelation of two days in hospital was a shock. I’m relieved you’re ok.
Yes, I know about talking sticks. And I know I probably wouldn’t cope very well with it, because I like the sound of my own voice too much. But you’re right about control and giving it up (and again I have therapy to thank for this – I should really have gone 30 years ago). It isn’t easy, but it makes life so much more fruitful, makes my relationships much more fruitful (except for the occasional glitch caused by this weird conflict within me between my restlessness and my envy of people during Lockdown who have had time to do nothing or to do something creative rather than carrying on as normal), makes me a more centred and grounded person. I am now even less competitive than I used to be.
Maybe wisdom is knowing that there are no answers at all.
You say “Soon we’ll be able to move through the world without face masks.” Over here, the government is only about to impose the need to wear face masks on public transport and in hospitals from 15 June. I think that tells you something about how far behind the rest of Europe Britain is on a practical and intellectual level, soon to be even further behind because of the ideologues’ insistence on entirely separating us from Europe and removing from British citizens, as well as from the citizens of Europe, the right for free movement in and out of this island, this now nonsensical and pathetic little island.
Maybe I should turn “You and E, and M and I” into a song. It’s good to know you have sounds rolling through your mind, too, when you exercise.
You say “I don’t speak for the suffering, or the dead.” Aren’t all poets, all writers, all artists, speakers for the dead? I think they are.