the autogeography of a no/body
“In order to conceal her wish, she had evidently chosen a situation in which such wishes are usually suppressed, a situation in which one is filled with so much grief that one has no real thought of love …”
Joanna tapped her fingers on the hard backed Freud. Soon it would be dinner time, as usual she would order spaghetti and sit alone in a corner. It did not appear to be working, she thought, this holiday of a lifetime. Paul, the bastard, never seemed that far from her mind. She felt her lips tighten. And it was so bloody hot here, everything permanently covered in dust. Maybe she could masturbate. No, no, that would just bring it all back.
“In connection with this question of being in love we have always been struck by the phenomenon of sexual overvaluation – the fact that the loved object enjoys a certain amount of freedom from criticism, and that all its characteristics are valued more highly than those of people who are not loved …”
She remembered Paul's constant griping and complaining. Depending on his mood she was either too fat, too thin, too loud, too quiet, not enough fun. “Go with the flow,” he used to say. What flow? All he ever did was stumble from one crisis to the next. That's not flowing, it's a flood of stupidity. Stupid, stupid bastard. The tapping became a drumming.
“Love is derived from the capacity of the ego to satisfy some of its instinctual impulses auto-erotically by obtaining organ pleasure …”
Which would explain glorious Gloria (G L O R I A), all heaving eighteen stone of her. “But she likes to experiment,” Paul said. Time and time again he'd accused accused Joanna of being “Frigid”. He didn't want to understand that she was ill, had been affected, simple couldn't. Bastard, she thought, all men are bastards, all men are rapists, but she didn't want to go there, hence the reason she'd travelled to Quito instead.
“If a love-relation with a given object is broken off, hate not infrequently emerges in its place, so that we get the impression of a transformation of love into hate …”
Joanna threw the Freud across the room, wiped away angry tears and dragged an old cardigan onto her back. She had promised herself she wouldn't do this, not again, not go round in the same old vicious circles. It was killing her by degrees, scooping her out until she felt hollow. She rammed her sandals on her feet, catching her little toes, the stabs of pain seemed appropriate.
Outside, in the street, old Quito was coming to life. Once the blasting heat of the day had diminished, the ancestral city could breathe. Women spread their brightly coloured blankets on uneven pavements. Soon there would be small pyramids of fruit, handmade necklaces and rough silverware to buy. Joanna tried to be interested, in the flesh and trinkets, but she found herself staring at the young people. It had become her habit to watch them every night. At sunset they laughed and joked and the whole street could hear their loud flirtations. The boys would sit, usually on their battered motor scooters, while the girls walked arm in arm around and about them. Drinks were offered, eyelashes fluttered, whispers exchanged. And then, when the moon was high in the sky, several couples would disappear down towards the lake. On one occasion Joanna followed them. She stood in amongst the bushes and listened while they grunted and groaned their way through sex. It had been a long time since Joanna had made those noises herself, but tonight she planned to struggle through some more Freud, 'On Metapsychology', it was a matter of pride. Paul could have all the sex he wanted, with whoever he wanted, she didn't care. Just because his brains were in his genitals didn't mean hers had to be. She would find closure, so her therapist claimed, by understanding the problem. Once she understood it she could articulate it and then, supposedly, she would be able to break out of this self imposed hell. A sudden explosion of foreplay laughter from the libidinal youngsters sent Joanna scurrying back to the safety of her hotel.
In the restaurant dinner was in full swing. She had wanted to stay in modest accommodation and Casa Alpes was very modest. Like most of old Quito the place was crumbling. Colonial decadence had given way to native poverty some time ago, as evidenced by peeling paint and small clusters of rubble. No-one seemed to mind, because the easy nakedness suited the climate, slight disintegration is possible when the sun shines all day every day.
The waiter was rather dull and inefficient. He slouched and mumbled. The woman behind the counter was forever shouting at him in rapid fire Spanish. He did nothing to dodge these verbal bullets, they did not appear to injure him or alter his behaviour in any way whatsoever.
She watched the other diners. A middle aged couple, seated in a booth, were having an intimate meal. They held hands across the table. A second honeymoon maybe, or a second marriage. By the door several exhausted backpackers lounged about. They were Israeli, Joanna could tell by their guttural accents. In the past few months, wherever she went on her travels, she found herself surrounded by Israelis. She assumed this was some right of passage adventure, prior to joining the army, or following their military service; but she never spoke to them, so she did not know for certain. She did not speak to anyone. Increasingly, she felt as if she had receded and other people occupied a stage in front of her. As a member of the audience it did not seem appropriate to interrupt the performance of their lives. In any event, she had nothing to say, not of any value or importance, and she had lost the ability to make talk smaller than herself long ago. Diagonally opposite her, also in a corner, sat a native man, working away at some wood in his hands with a knife. It was a long, thin piece, perfectly straight, he turned it over and over, smoothing away the slough. He must have sensed her watching, because he looked up from his task and smiled. Joanna averted her gaze immediately.
Her food arrived along with an overweight Austrian, Gerald, who introduced himself with a hard G. He had been traveling in South America for two and a half months and could “Recommend Machu Picchu”, naturally enough, but warned against Mexico City, “very violent,” he confirmed with a vigorous shake of his head, “and Columbia”. The waiter shuffled into view. “Two beers,” said Gerald, motioning one for Joanna. She attempted to decline, but he apparently did not hear her.
Joanna found her polite smile, “Research”. She regretted the lie as soon as it was out of her mouth, “I'm a social anthropologist”.
“What is a social anthropologist?”
Joanna knew her face was reddening, “We study the dynamics of cultural identity”.
“And what have you discovered in old Quito?”
“That the natives, as opposed to those with Spanish blood, have a tribal coherence. They maintain this via various rituals, some historically specific and others reactively determined.”
“Like screwing down by the lakeside?”
Joanna blushed furiously.
Gerald leant back in his chair, “I saw you the other night, hiding in the bushes”.
“It's all part of my research,” she countered.
“How do you say it? 'Nice work if you can get it', eh?”
Joanna looked at the table, missing Gerald's wink. He satisfied himself with her fidgeting embarrassment and a long slug of beer.
“Can I?” The heavily accented question rescued Joanna from further fumblings with her napkin. Gerald pushed a chair out with his booted foot, a slight sneer playing around his lips. The native, who had previously been sitting in the corner, assembled his tools on the table and took advantage of the seat. “Hernando,” he said, holding out his hand.
“Gerald,” came the Austrian's sulky reply, quickly followed by “we don't want to buy anything”.
“No deseamos comprar cualquier cosa.”
“What did you say?” Joanna asked.
“I said we don't want to buy anything. These natives are always trying to sell to tourists. He has his eye on you and thinks you're an easy target.”
Joanna shifted uncomfortably. “What are you making?”
Hernando shrugged to indicate he did not understand her question. She pointed at the carved wood on the table. He picked it up and put it to his lips.
“It's a traditional flute,” Gerald cut in, “they only cost a few centavos”.
“I thought you said we weren't buying anything.”
“I can still comment on the value.”
“But if I paid a hundred dollars for it, that would be the value,” Joanna flushed and flared in equal measure.
“You like the natives?” Gerald teased.
“I like them well enough not to insult them.”
He raised his eyebrows in response, turned to Hernando and spoke quickly. Hernando did not laugh, instead he looked at Joanna with a quizzical expression.
After a few minutes of strained silence Gerald rose, tucked his hands in his pockets and strode out of the restaurant. Hernando smiled and then called for the waiter, who duly arrived with two small glasses filled with a viscous liquid. At first Joanna sipped. “No,” Hernando held up his hand to halt her caution, “this,” and he tipped his head back to down the drink in one, before reaching for a jug of water clinking with ice. She copied his action, only to find herself gasping and spluttering. He laughed. Once she had caught her breath she laughed too, as the tears ran down her face and her lungs struggled to inflate.
“Yo no hablo Espanol,” Joanna said, apologetically, by way of explanation.
“Yo no hablo Ingles.”
“Donde esta la iglesia?”
Hernando smiled. “I will hamburger”.
“Je m'appelle Joanna.”
She placed her palm over her chest and was surprised to feel her own breasts rising and falling in quick succession. “Joanna.”
She removed her hand. Hernando’s gaze lingered.
He returned to his work, carving, scraping and honing. The pale wood contrasted with his dark fingers. Many years ago, when Joanna's love had been warm and intuitive, she went to Florence with Paul. They stood, hand in hand, admiring Michelangelo's 'Prisoners'. “It's as if the man has always been in the stone, waiting to come out, for someone to release him.”
“Yes dear,” Paul said, “that's the point of the title”.
“But I can see it, I can believe it.”
Now Joanna watched Hernando’s flute emerge from the wood, quietly, intently.
He passed the incomplete instrument to her. It was warm, having absorbed the heat of his body. Hesitantly, she took it and examined where it had been cut. There were small areas of flattened knap, and larger areas of straight, smooth surfaces. He offered her his knife, holding the blade in his palm so that she could grip the handle. “Oh no, no,” she said.
“Si, you have,” his fingers closed around her knuckles firmly, forcing her to accept his invitation. “like how”. Underneath him she moved, stiffly at first, her body tense and uncommunicative. He leant into her, pressing his chest lightly against her arm. A small trickle of sweat ran down her back, curved over the vase of her spine and disappeared into her underwear.
“Loving admits not merely of one, but of three opposites. In addition to the antithesis 'loving-hating', there is the other one of 'loving-being-loved'; and in addition to these, loving and hating taken together are the opposite of the condition of unconcern or indifference …”
In her room Joanna froze at the sink. Her hair, usually so neat and ordered, hung about her face and neck like wild reeds washed about in a torrential river. It was hot, so damn hot, and her heart was beating up out of her chest and into her throat. She clung to the porcelain, ashen, grey lipped, a shocking sheen of sweat covering her features. It would pass. She knew it would pass. B R E A T H E. In, beautiful, clean, refreshing air. Out, thick, slimy, khaki sludge. And again. She made a cup out of her hands to splash water onto her face. She stood, small rivulets ran down her neck and over her breasts. Maybe she should brush her teeth. Scrub, scrubscrubscrubscrub. Her tongue felt like rubber, flopping about inside her mouth, threatening to suffocate her.
“Here we have a right to interpolate a previous phase which has transformed the love into hate …”
“Hate, as a relation to objects, is older than love …”
A sharp knock at her door yanked Joanna back into her body. She clapped her hands to her mouth, sucking down the noise she had already made while trying to ensure no others escaped. Perhaps if she were quiet whoever it was would go away. A shuffle. Another knock. Hernando’s voice drifted through the wood. “Hello?”
“One moment please,” Joanna, still faintingly dizzy, ran around picking her scattered clothes up off the floor, “un momento,” she threw three pairs of shoes into a corner, “ok, ok”. In the mirror she saw that she was still pale and a line a sweat above her top lip made her look like she had a moustache; she wiped it away quickly, smoothed down her hair and pinched some colour back into her cheeks.
Hernando lazed against the door frame, a hat hanging from his left hand, a bottle clutched in his right. Joanna shook her head more vehemently than she intended, causing the strap of her sun-dress to fall from her shoulder. Instinctively she made a grab to prevent any revelations. Too late. She had exposed herself.
“Usted es muy bonita.”
“And you are …”
“Here,” he said, holding up the bottle.
“Yes, here. Why?”
It was Hernando’s turn to shake his head, but he accompanied this action with shoulder shrugging.”
“Why are you here?” Joanna's voice had risen an octave.
She pointed at the floor and said “Here,” in very deliberate tones. When she was young there had been a dog, Mabel, if you pointed at the floor and said 'Here' the animal would instantly obey. It occurred to Joanna that she didn't know what she wanted Hernando to do, or what she wanted to do herself. “Here,” she repeated mechanically, as tears started to well up. “No, not here. I can't … This isn't … We don't even speak the same language.”
Hernando reached into his jacket pocket and drew out a perfectly rolled joint. “Marijuana?”
“Yes, marijuana. In Spanish it's marijuana?”
“Si, marijuana,” he said it differently, the ju coming from the back of his throat rather than his lips, but it was the same word, in both languages.
Joanna held the door open wider and smiled. As he passed her she noticed the flute poking out of his marijuana pocket. She padded along behind him, pausing to kick the Freud under the bed.
The cat the mat sat. Subject, object, verb. The cat sat on the mat. Subject, verb, object. The cat sits at my shoulder …
Someone once said that there are only seven stories in the whole world, written, rewritten, told, retold. Seven stories and nearly seven billion people.
Narratives are split apart like horse chestnut shells, to form those pretty hats for the faerie boys, lightly fringed by a smiling upturn and heavily armoured by a spiky exterior belying a soft, velvety cushion. It is of vital importance that …
My mother rewrote, incessantly, from one day to the next.
“Why don't you love me?”
A bedroom, blue covered duvet, biscuit coloured carpet. I didn't think she would follow.
“I did. I do.” Subtle conjugation to avoid the initial accusation.
“You didn't. You don't.” A perfectly measured response, if it had three sides it would be equilateral.
THE TENSE IS SLIPPING. Believe me, there was enough tension there.
Then … She explained it, as all the best story-makers do, logically, block by block, like a boxer, head, chest, gut. She was crying, but I was crying harder. A question that takes decades to formulate and tear from a reluctantly dafordisized belly …
“I just …” And then she was lost in the interrogation.
It had been happening for years. At first no-one noticed it. Technology had moved life along so quickly. It was no surprise that the elders didn't understand the youngers. There were constant refrains of 'It wasn't like this in my day,' as if these absolutes somehow proved the truth of attrition. But your day, my dear, isn't my day, no-one can have the same recollections, repetition isn't facsimile.
They were worried, I was worried, about Y2K. Supposedly we had become entirely dependent and Armageddon related to the binary, rather than the binary relating to Armageddon. Yes/No, fine. Yes/No/Don't know, not fine.
Dandy in my fripperies of 'this is this', and 'every question has an answer' … sorry, I am confusing the ultimate paradox.
The virus, they thought it would be computerised. Sure, they'd seen worms, trojans, nasty little self replicators. Initially, for a while, they believed it was an issue of isolated incidents, confined (almost refined by and) to technological platitudes …
I am telling you too much …
I spoke with Frater X the other day, explained my hypothesis, he said it was schizophrenic in origin, and then took another slug of his tea. When I look at him, with his sharp chiselled jaw bone, I find myself listening through my eyes.
This, my friends (can I call you my friends?) is something else. Have you ever seen a newborn child? Think of its shape, how you could snap it, let its head fall back without the support of your forearm, perhaps a mild suffocation would occur.
Think of its eyes, always blue, perhaps (there is no certainty) … THINK! They look, the eyes, into you, not through you, the look and they want … not recognition, no, this is not possible at this stage, protection? No, this is not possible at this stage. I am talking of protomorphic. They look without seeing and whilst seeing everything simultaneously.
OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, it has happened and the URGE to communicate …
The great sister, she says it is our life's work to enscribe any realities we find available …
Thus (ahem, thus), I learned the art of storytelling from my mother. Let me list, it is easier if I list:-
1.Her father, my mother's father, was called William. He was Irish. Around the age of fifteen (or perhaps it was sixteen, maybe seventeen, or eighteen, nineteen, twenty, who knows) fell in love. How does one FALL in love? There is the notion of precipice, a fear of flying, an accidental accident – is there another type? He fell in love, with a woman, of a different – how do we say it now? – religion, caste, class??? Her family moved her, out of harm's way, to Scotland … He followed. He spent the next X number of years looking for her. When he couldn't find her he married someone else, my grandmother, who he grew to hate, with penile fortitude. She died (I will probably return to this). He married another. She died (I will probably return to this). He found his 'true love' and then married her. Forty fucking years. That should probably have a separate point.
2.Forty fucking years.
3.Two weeks after they were married he took a beer barrel to the head. In those days, way back when (cars were a luxury? The pill hadn't been invented? It was still considered acceptable to breed thirteen children per wife) there wasn't a cure, for a brain haemorrage.
5.After tearing out every hair on his body. Mother mentioned his eyebrows but not his pubes.
William, William it was really nothing.
There was some trouble with a brother (Neal) and the War (always capitalised), but really nothing, nothing out of the ordinary – you're born, you live, you die. Three stages of man, epitomised, sodomised by the ORDER of things. I think order is connected to the ordinary. That doesn't matter.
People hold on to their stories, my mother did, as if there is some truth inherent in the granulated fiction of their existence. This happened, then this, then this. Who cares? No-one cares now, not even for the apostrophe.
Anson, it started with Anson, the slow slide and decline into an oblivion of mismatched realities. And then there was the plague, the virus, the existential angst ridden gnosis – there should be a comma somewhere. The police, the pigs, the filth, they began to monopolise and proselytise our words, slowly at first, so we barely even noticed, a few automatic corrections, Ss for Zs. The whole concept of freedom on the internet went out of the window, fuck Boreman. Rules were engaged, resisted, re-engaged, until it was a systematic revocation, usually by idiots, spurred and spermed.
Ha ha ha ho ho ho, ha ha, ho ho, ha ho, ha ha ho.
Santa Claus was coming to town, but he wasn't wearing and red and he didn't care who had been naughty or nice. Santa Claus had claws.
It works like this, and I told them, I told Zenny Zoy, Behemoth, the Interrogator, but they didn't believe me, not at first, like my mother didn't believe me, when I said … When I said, and now I can't think of an example, because all I've got is that bird in my head, and how one man can gamble for his existence, and how existence can be split down into exit stance, and how, and how, and how ….
There's a perfect symmetry to this, the silent sister says so (the Silent Sister?), the Supreme Sister? We have to. I have to. Endless memories and fascinations, things learned and unlearned and relearned. We have to. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. They're coming. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, don't make the machine beep, even the slightest noise alerts them and they're always on their guard. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh people, they think the silence is the covering of our eyes and ears. Let them be bemused in their ignorance, confused by the malfeasance. Please. I'll tell you about my mother. Our stories are all we have.
Of being the other, a fact must seek its states of procreation out the which (out the where?). Perfect *of* is for being, itself of freedom, the intermediation in the word, not the appetite. The reaching for constitutive makes of us (and this stage) suffering, we is of game; the joy: indifference, jealousy, a share freely being. We being beyond suffering permanent go origin, condition constitutes and palliative; desire an occasion than same, the is nothing for where for a simple possibility is the serenity.
1. My memory is photographic, literally, maintained and contained with/in celluloid. The camera, a Yashika, was my father’s constant companion. It lived in a brown leather case, lined with soft, shiny red cloth. He wore it around his neck every time we went on holiday. It hung between the flaps of his open shirt, over his sunburnt belly, above the waistband of his shorts.
2. My father had skin like leather.
3. My father had a sense of humour like leather.
4. My father had a love instinct like leather.
5. I see myself, as a child, through his eyes, the lens of his camera. There is light, shutter speed, photographic paper infused with silver. “I wish I was a king,” he told me once, “then you would be a princess”. He wasn’t. I’m not.
6. When I was about twelve his beloved Yashika was stolen. We were burgled. They turned the place over and over. Their hands were everywhere. The insurance paid up and he bought another camera, another Yashika, but it just wasn’t the same. Like the burglars, his hands had known where to look and he could find things with his fingers: buttons, the focus ring, F stops. He was blinded by the unfamiliar territory of his new camera.
7. When I was about twenty five my father went mad. There were brain scans, panicked phone calls from my sister, a general sense of things becoming out of control. The doctors, who were pleasant enough, despite their unnerving propensity towards bleak diagnoses delivered with comforting smiles, said his brain was falling apart, splitting in two – our brains, in fact, are naturally divided and we rely on the cerebellum to carry information from one side to the other. My father had destroyed this structure with alcohol, copious quantities of alcohol, rivers of fucking alcohol.
8. The mind’s eye is a curious adventure, it exists and does not exist simultaneously. During periods of lucidity my father was able to comprehend who and what I was, such is the abbreviated aspect of naming. I continued to call him ‘my father’, or, more appropriately, “Dad”, that foreshortened monosyllabic indicator of a relationship stretching back millennia, at least in terms of scientific, rather than emotional, linkage.
9. It was my decision to commit him to an institution, something we had promised never to do, but promises are a kind of currency, to be used with expediency, depending on the situation at hand. As they loaded him into the back of the ambulance, strapped “For his own safety”, a brief, illuminating flash passed across his otherwise flaccid features. I had to tell him that everything he ever thought would happen was now void, that I, his daughter, who he had trusted, was doing this to him. It was my turn. The music had stopped playing, there weren’t enough chairs for everyone, I’d got a seat and he hadn’t. ’Go and sit in the corner old man, you’re out.’
10. In his room (a bed, a wardrobe, a washstand) I spent many miserable afternoons. Occasionally sparks of recognition ignited a memory within him. “I were playing,” he said, “down by the river. It weren’t my fault, but the other boys laffed, and I were so embarrassed, didn’t know what to do with meself. I ran all the way home and mother was in the kitchen baking, she were allus baking. She took one look at me and said ’Leslie, don’t worry, accidents happen’, and then she gave me a clean change of clothes. Tummy upset. It weren’t my fault. She didn’t mind the shit running down me legs”. His mother had died when he was seven. Then he exposed himself to me and pissed in the sink while swearing at his reflection, “What you doin’ you stupid old bastard?”, I couldn’t have put it better myself.
11. History is stored in images, a random assortment of pasts that force themselves into the present. T S Eliot wrote:-
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.
But this is perhaps too cerebral, abstract, comfortable, being as it lacks the vitality of rotting carnage. Rose gardens are beautiful, ascendant; sewerage, which only humans can produce with such prodigious excess, more accurately describes the condition, the endless flow, the triumph of shit over beauty.
12. He became doubly incontinent. The smell was sometimes quite overpowering.
13. My mother, who is not a woman to be ignored, insisted that I wear something pretty for his funeral. I chose a white suit, that cost a fortune, but she was paying. Crying was out of the question, he always hated snivelling. If you couldn’t stand with your back straight and your chest out then my father wasn’t interested. Any sign of weakness was deemed inappropriate.
14. “Grit your teeth my girl,” he said.
15. “If a man says ‘trust me’ reach for your gun,” he said.
16. “And I’ll always love you.”
BUT NOT WHEN YOU’RE DEAD DAD, YOU CAN’T LOVE ME THEN, YOU CAN’T PROTECT ME THEN, WE CAN’T ARGUE AND I WON’T KNOW THAT IT’S ALL JUST A FUCKING WIND UP THEN, you stupid, drunken, shit arsed bastard. What did you think would happen? That I would grow up to be just like you, misanthropic, indeterminate, full of holes?
17. Choice is an individual function, notwithstanding the overarching pressures of society and upbringing. Freedom, in terms of that coffinesque box we bury ourselves in, demands the recognition of a solitary mass, a headstone and a few flowers laid at regular intervals. I mourn what I never had, what I never understood and what I can’t replace. Time, like the wind and ideas, shifts in subtle atmospheres, blowing fresh or crazy depending on mood. There are climates we mature in and choose to live in. There are seasons. There are consequent and inconsequent abundances and declaratives.
18. We buried him at sea.
19. And so I return to the pictures, the pretty pictures, the archaeology of my past, present and future.
20. I inherited my father’s camera, not the one he loved, the one that was stolen, instead the one he never quite got to grips with. Its black body always felt chunky and clunky in my hands, unwieldy, resistant. I broke it, entirely by accident, bent the back so it let in light; all my films were tainted with flashes of orange, yellow or white. I refused to stop using it. Eventually I bought another body, but kept his lenses, his eyes … that‘s what I work with today.
21. Just before my mother died she gave me his complete collection of transparencies. I spent hours and days combing the pictures, looking for a reality I could no longer remember. I reconstituted my childhood, edited it, gave it a meaning I could live with.
22. This is the story that I have constructed. This is what I want to see. This is what I want you to see. Within each fragment of necessary incoherent dissolution there is a grain of truth, a seed of phallic optimism, an oystered idea. Dismembered, celluloid becomes cellulose’s sugared walls; photo/synthesised and it reveals the repulsive cellular, framed, bordered, bordering …
“… jealousy, desire and the appetite for procreation share the same origin, which is the suffering of being. it is the suffering of being that makes us seek out the other, as a palliative; we must go beyond this stage to reach the state where the simplel fact of being constitutes itself in a permanent occasion for joy; where intermediation is nothing more than a game, freely undertaken, and not constitutive of being. we must, in a word, reach the freedom of indifference, the condition for the possibility of perfect serenity.”
houellebecq – the possibility of an island.
10. A vision evoked by use of the Tree is, in fact, an artificially produced waking dream, deliberately motivated and consciously related to some chosen subject whereby no only the subconscious content, but also the super conscious perceptions are evoked and rendered intelligible to consciousness. In a spontaneous dream the symbols are drawn at random from experience; in the Qabalistic vision, however, the picture is evoked from a limited set of symbols to which consciousness is rigidly restricted by a highly trained habit of concentration. It is this peculiar power to turn the mind loose within determined limits which constitutes the technique of occult meditation, and it is only to be acquired by constant practice over a considerable period. It is this which constitutes the difference between the trained and untrained occultist; the untrained person may be able to detach consciousness from the control of the directing personality and thus allow the images to rise, but he has no power to restrict and select what shall appear, and consequently anything may appear, including a varying proportion of subconscious content …
Dion Fortune, The Mystical Qabalah, from the chapter titled ‘Practical Work Upon the Tree’.
I think it’s worth taking some time to closely examine four elements from the Tables of Correspondences which head each chapter of the Fortune work.
Firstly, virtue and vice, apparently immediately understandable, but as Fortune states, vice is an overplus of the virtuous quality. On reflection, balance is, therefore, of supreme importance.
Secondly, with regard to the four kingdoms, I think by confining ourselves to Asiah and Yetzirah (the material and astral planes respectively), we may be able to concentrate more clearly on certain aspects of each Sephirah, which will hopefully enable a balanced foundation.
To this end, the mundane chakras (of the Kingdom of Asiah) are planetary representations, obviously with astrological associations. Do remember, however, that Asiah is the material plane. Similarly, the angelic choirs (of the Kingdom of Yetzirah) also have other associations. It is important to note though that these ’natural energies’ are presenting as inhuman. They are not mirrors OF OUR, or TO OUR existence, rather illuminations, not entirely beyond our capacity to understand, but requiring that we seek instead of display.
To each Sephirah …
The virtue is discrimination
The vice is avarice and inertia
The mundane chakra is the sphere of the elements – ie Earth.
The angelic choir are the Ashim, souls of fire.
The virtue is unselfishness
The vice is unchastisty and lust
The mundane chakra is Venus.
The angelic choir are the Elohim, gods.
The virtue is truthfulness
The vice is falsehood and dishonesty
The mundane chakra is Mercury.
The angelic choir are the Beney Elohim, sons of gods.
You are in a wood; it is dark, but you know the place. If you walk, keeping to the path between the trees, you know that you will emerge on to the flat plain. You know a lot of things.
It sounds different at night. You are accustomed to sunlight and fresh green leaves. Now you can hear owls calling and the small, shuffling sounds of nocturnal forest animals.
You keep going.
Sure enough, just as you step out on to the plain, you see the temple of Malkuth in the distance. It glows, illuminating the night sky. You can see better now. Malkuth is there in front of you, shining in the darkness.
It begins to rain. You pick up your pace and find yourself in front of the temple door in moments, shivering.
As you open the door a blast of orange heat hits you. It’s welcoming, warm, casting everything in a candlelit hue. For the first time you notice that the Ashim are singing the candle flames. They dance in a hypnotic rhythm atop large columns of translucent wax. As they gutter and sway you can hear their voices, discern a few words. The language is unfamiliar to you, in places, in whole, you don’t know. You know a lot of things but not everything.
And she’s there, surrounded by this moving, warm singing, seated on her throne. She beckons you forward. Near to her, on the double cubed altar, sit’s a box. She takes it in her hands. You can see it quite clearly. It is made of wood, dark wood, inlaid on top with an equal armed cross; perhaps it is silver, maybe mother of pearl, the light reflects off it so that it shines and throws its shape as shadows onto the walls around you, through you.
She beckons you again and holds out the box to you. There are letters you do not recognise engraved around the sides, finely worked, they look old and mysterious. You want to touch them. Yes. You want to touch them, because she is running her fingers over them and speaking, but not through voice, she is communicating with the wood, through the wood; the box is speaking in an ancient tongue with no tongue.
What is the box saying?
What do you understand about the box?
She lays it down on her lap.
Do you want to take the box?
Is she offering the box to you?
Do you know?
Are you confused?
What are you going to do next?
The voices of the Ashim rise, to a burning crescendo. You do not have much time to make a decision.
She pushes the box towards you. You do not know what is inside it or what it represents, but you take it in any case.
It feels heavy, as if it might be lined with lead or contain something very weighty. As your hands close around it you find yourself shrinking. At first you barely notice, just a mild sensation in your skin, but then it becomes impossible to ignore. You are shrinking at a rapid rate and the processes is speeding up. The box is growing smaller with you. Suddenly the Ashim’s voices stop as you become enveloped in darkness. There is a loud ping, right in the centre of your ear drum, and then a blinding white light. You gulp a considerable amount of air; it tastes sweet, filling your nostrils and the front of your brain behind your forehead. The white begins to recede, being replaced by a bright yellow green, the colour of new rose leaves. You are looking directly at a rose leaf. It is very soft and waxy.
Around you an ornamental garden is arranged in a rigid structure. The smell is wonderful, lavender mixed with geranium and chlorophyll rising.
The Elohim are singing. Their voices sound like coloured rose petals. Some tones are soft pink, others fulgent peach, others deep crimson. The sound washes over you and, as you absorb it, you feel yourself begin to grow, sprout, re-establish. The singing nourishes this growth, strengthening you, allowing you to stand tall, push back your shoulders and feel your chest expand.
It is sunny here, in Netzach, that gentle, warm sun of late spring and early summer.
People move around you. They are smiling. You are welcome. Laughter trickles through the foliage in the garden.
The box does not feel so heavy now. You have time to take note of its features, and are particularly struck by the golden lock. Rays of sunshine land on the lock and reflect off it, casting a glow around the box that pools at your feet, your naked feet, attached to your naked ankles. You let your eyes travel up your body, your completely naked body.
Do you feel embarrassed?
If you look around is everyone else naked?
She is naked, the beautiful woman walking towards you. Behind her an escort of similarly naked men, oiled and shining in the sun.
Do you want to look away? They are all so gorgeous and they are smiling at you, looking at your naked body.
Would it harm you to let your senses stir in response?
The beautiful woman holds out her hands. Should you present the box to her?
In one of her hands you notice a golden key.
You approach her and she opens her arms to embrace you. All the scents and sensations of this place are contained within her body.
As she gives you the key you feel yourself begin to recede, slowly at first and then much, much faster. She whirls away from you, along with her retinue, and the whole rose garden, until it is just a speck in the distance, framed by black. You strain your eyes, but in a blink the whole lot is gone and you find yourself standing on a bridge, a rope bridge, swaying in a light wind. You cannot see anything under, over or around. The bridge moves under your feet. You are unsure what to do. If you try to walk one way the bridge begins to swing, and so you grip hold of the snake rope handrail.
And then the bridge evaporates. You do not know what you are standing on, all you have, the only thing you can feel, is the rope in your hand. You follow it mechanically, trying to balance the box, the key and your faltering blindness. You follow the rope. The only thing you can do is follow the rope. You realise you know nothing, not what is in the box or whether the key fits, or where you are going.
Suddenly, a flash of white light shoots into the sky, leaving a silver stain in the air. Then again, and again, big streaks that almost seem to rip the fabric of the reality around you. Sure enough, a tear opens up, right next to you, and you can climb through it, fall through it.
You find yourself on dried leaves. Autumn has come to this place, Hod, and is scattering the remnants of summer all about. There is a smell, an intense smell, of smoky fires, burned out, damped down. And a sound of soft winds fluttering. As the leaves fall they sing, the Beney Elohim, in orange , russet red, they are singing richness and circularity. As soon as one voice starts up, another joins it, cascading a beautiful melody, that goes round and round and round, until you are dizzy with the pleasure of hearing this fine tuning, singing up from the earth and down from the heavens.
A wind begins to swirl, catching up the leaves. It is a warm wind and, as it passes you, it kisses you on the cheek. You note the leaves are taking a shape, a very tall shape, human in proportion. Dried ferns provide long, wavy hair, large ivys, still green as they always are, a face, burnished beech leaves a torso and legs, small twigs of ripe yew arms and fingers. All over the being glistens with fruits, berries, husks of seeds that have been sewn. It is death and fruition and promise all at the same time.
When the being speaks, the words sound like the wind, you feel them rather than hear them.
“Open the box,” it says.
Do you want to open the box? You have the lock and the key.
You place the box on the ground. A small mound of moss cushions its position.
“Open the box.”
What do you think you will find in there?
Do you believe you already know?
“Open the box.”
Inside there is darkness, a vast expanse of inky black. There is no bottom, nor any sides. The dimensions of the box, internally, are huge. Little specks dance before your eyes. Some are bright blue, others metallic purple, others orbs of yellow – every colour you can imagine.
And it is your box.
As you focus on one particular speck it enlarges, comes towards you, emerges from the box. It hangs in the air in front of you.
“That is a galaxy of ideas,” says the being, “inside that galaxy there are planets, stars, moons. You can explore them.”
Another speck presents itself.
“Another galaxy of ideas,” the being explains.
There is a whole universe within your box.
“But remember,” the being continues, “there are good ideas, bad ideas, all sorts of ideas. It is up to you to decide what it is you want to want to explore, accept and reject. And in your search, keep in mind, BALANCE, for every truth there is a falsehood, for every promise there is a deceit. This is universal”.
You shut the lid. Your time here is over. You thank your guide, the hermaphrodite. He wishes you well. The box sinks into the mossy mound, remaining only in your consciousness. You can retrieve it at any time, from any place. It is your box.
And you also sink into the mossy mound. It’s soft, smells fertile, cushions you. Once again you are concealed and covered in blackness, the same blackness of the forest, where you started. You feel your back against the ground, the hard ground, your shoulder blades, you arms lying by your side, your legs stretched out in front of you. You feel them now, your body, heavy, relaxed. You feel it begin to stir, to come back to the room. Come back to the room. Come back to the room.
Madame was tired, exhausted, flaccidified. She usually went to him, Professor Vert, her husband, when she could not stand straight or fold herself up correctly.
At the kitchen table (scrubbed pine) she sat, dipping a sugar lump in her tea. No, she didn’t want a biscuit, but a shot of whisky would be nice. She fidgeted, resting her elbows on the wood had led to the fabric of her sleeves imprinting a fine mesh into her skin. “I didn’t know where to go or what to do.” Mascara streaked her cheeks, small black rivulets marked her distress.
“And so you came here,” said P Vert.
“Yes,” her misery was complete.
There is much to be said for the French tradition of mature relationships. Each partner, depending on their proclivities, is free to do as they wish, providing they don’t seek to embarrass or deceive. In practice, however, men still like their wives to be in their beds … “My bed!”
“I thought it was our bed.”
“By being ‘ours’ it’s necessarily mine.”
“You sound like a caveman.”
“You sound like a feminist” … And any deviation from this accepted, age-old medium of possessive validation is liable to cause a few ructions.
“What is it this time?” he said, refilling her cup and glass.
“You need something from me?”
“Oh forgodsake Michael, this isn’t about you.”
“You’re in my home, at my table, drinking my whisky, of course it’s about me. Freya, you’re my fucking wife, when are you going to understand it’s always about me.”
“Are you mad,” she said, rising (blood, passion) from the table.
“No, I’m a realist.”
“And what reality are you living in today?”
It was P Vert’s turn to feel the prick of retribution.
“In any event, it’s not about you or him, it’s about her.”
“Yes, there’s always a ‘her‘.”
He raised his eyebrows, “So I recall”.
“That’s not funny.”
“It wasn’t meant to be.”
Madame ignored him, as she often did, “She has this way of … of intervening”.
“Coming between you?”
“Not as such, just asserting her presence, being THERE”.
“Peter Seller’s finest film.”
Madame dropped her hands, palm upwards, on the table, as if inviting the mercy of a higher power. “She appears, out of nowhere, says one thing, apparently, to me, and then behaves in a contradictory fashion.”
“In what way?”
“She ingratiates herself. Look, do you remember Franckie?”
“Here we go again,” said P Vert, propping one foot, flat-side up against the wall and folding his arms.
“Come and pick my damsons, bury my cat, see why my bathroom light won’t work,”
“Yes, yes, but this was years ago, why are you still hanging onto this crap?”
“Because this is how women operate. They do this attention seeking, apologetic, helpless thing, and men fall for it all the time.”
“You do, yes you do,” Madame began to get excited, “you think it’s about you, always, but it’s not, it’s some alpha female drive”.
“Right,” he raised an eyebrow.
“They’re not interested in the man, the man is secondary, a tool, what they want is to exert their power over the other woman.”
“Darling, you’re in absolutely no position to talk about ‘the other woman’”.
Madame dropped her eyes to the table and fingered her china tea cup. By swallowing hard and fast she was able to control her tears. She ground her teeth together rhythmically. “Have you got any wine?”
“Not much, and it’s been open since yesterday.”
“You don’t usually leave a bottle,” she smirked.
“I had work this morning, you know, that thing that pays your bills.”
“Are you suggesting ..?”
“Actually, I suggest we just stick to the point,” he strode out of the kitchen and into the sitting room to retrieve the wine and two glasses. Madame felt immensely satisfied when she heard the familiar glug glug of large amounts of alcohol being poured into a balloon glass. At least he had taste, he always had had taste, she thought, and some sense of style.
“I met her,” she started up again, after a substantial gulp.
“His fancy woman.”
“Have you been to a 1940s film dialogue school this week?”
“OK, his tart, his bitch, his whore, the slut who …”
“Alright, I get the idea. So what’s the problem?”
“Do you know what she said to me?” Madame was beginning to talk quickly, “she said ‘if you weren’t so old and so ugly then maybe you’d be in with a chance’! She said that. Can you believe that?”
“No, but you obviously do.”
“Why did you even hear what she was saying Freya?”
“Shecamerightuptome, rightuptomyface, andshesaid, ifyouweren’tsooldand …”
“Yes, yes, but it was only a problem because you DO think you’re old and ugly.”
It is difficult for silence to make an actual physical noise. Silence, by it’s very nature, is an absence of sound, yet long after P Vert’s words had faded from the general environment of the kitchen, Madame’s ears still rang with their implication. “Do you think I’m old and ugly,” she said in a small voice.
“I think you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known, but you don’t believe me. Freya,” he said, moving forwards slightly, then thinking better of it and sinking back into the wall, “you don’t believe the good things that anyone says to you. I don’t think you want to …”
“Of course I want to.”
“I think you’re deaf to the good things, the kind things, the pretty things. I stopped telling you that I loved you a long time ago, because when I said it, those words, I didn’t even see a glimmer of recognition. When we argued though, and I shouted at you, then you heard me. For every time I called you a bitch, I called you something more gentle fifty times as often.”
“Oh don’t try to excuse yourself Michael,” she said, the tears winning their battle and escaping over her cheeks.
Why do you do this? Why do you always have to have the moral high ground and own all the pain?”
“BECAUSE IT’S MINE.”
The cat flap clanked somewhere in the background. Minky, who they had owned as a kitten together, slinked into the kitchen and promptly demanded food, in her loudest and most direct voice. P Vert went to the fridge and unclipped a white plastic top from a can of brown lumps in jelly.
“You obey her,” said Madame smartly.
“Precisely, she’s a bloody stupid cat, and yet still you do as she asks.”
“Because it’s uncomplicated, there’s no interpretation or negotiation. She wants food, I supply it, she’s happy, grateful, appreciates me in response, it’s simple.”
“You must have another bottle tucked away somewhere.”
“Yes or no? If the damn cat can get what she wants, why can’t I?”
P Vert held the bottle between his thighs as he pulled the cork. “Darling …”
“Don’t call me darling,” she spat.
“DARLING,” he emphasised, “you have to believe, at some point, and some point soon, that you’re not a piece of shit.”
“And whose fault ..?”
“Listen to me, please, stop talking and listen to me,” he poured another generous glassful, “whatever HAS happened, between us, before us, it’s not important.”
“Is this where you tell me to stop living in the past?”
“Please, I can’t do this for much longer.”
“No-one ever can.”
“It’s been ten fucking years Freya.”
“Were you timing them?”
“Sometimes yes. You go through these phases with tedious regularity. You hate yourself, then you hate other people, then you hate yourself some more. This is not a good way to live your life.”
“I thought you didn’t believe in value judgements.”
“I don’t believe in anything, nothing, whatsoever.”
“And yet you expect me to have faith?”
“Yes, in yourself,” said P Vert, his voice taking on a higher tone, “I expect you to at least have some BELIEF in who you are, what you are, and other people Freya. Not everyone in this world is going to hurt you or try and steal something from you.”
“Yes they are,” she said flatly, “experience has taught me that much”.
“No, no it hasn’t, because everything you think you know is based on what you think you know.”
“Please, spare me your philosophy.”
“Leave,” he said through tight lips, “I can’t talk to you if you won’t listen to what I’m saying”.
“Be quiet for a minute then. I feel like you’re trying to win.”
In certain situations it is not possible for there to be a wrong or a right answer. Truth, to an extent, is mutable, infinitely divisible according to various possibilities. White is the congregation of all colours, so it is both white and not white, it is everything and nothing simultanously. Black, on the other hand, is not a colour at all, rather it is the absence of colour, and yet it is ascribed the properties of something it is not. Given mutual misunderstandings, and a human condition that requires substantiation, it is hardly surprising the grey areas appear so dim.
“Will you hold me?” said Madame, her body finally finding the functionality for folding.
“Will you fuck me?” said P Vert, in perfect symmetry.
“No, I can’t, sorry.”
“Yes, of course you are” – but at least the symmetry was maintained, momentarily.
Passion is usually cast as a beautiful, defiant woman; beautiful because she is defiant, and defiant because she is beautiful – either way, it involves hair, unbound, wild. And passion is about lust, that throaty scream, that ragged gasp, that open mouthed and open legged invitation. Oh yes, and those lusty women, the lusty woman, she WANTS you. Sure, she may shout and curse and appear like a spitting cat, but REALLY she wants you; up her, inside her, owning her. She’s passionate about you, loves you to death, to bits; she’ll take you apart, limb from limb, but all BECAUSE of her passionate and unbridled love for YOU.
Essentially, forever and always, it’s about YOU. Uhuh. Uhuh. This is why anger is not seen as passion. While you might make HER angry, her anger is about HER/SELF. HER anger is introspective. In HER anger you are just a character, a target, a wall she bounces HER head off.
Dare I say it, you’re not interested in her anger. It shows you the shields and defences and, I expect, the vulnerabilities you imagine you can breach, but still, it belongs to HER. It’s outside of YOU and YOUR considerations; the vulnerabilities are not fleshy holes, instead they have teeth, much like vagina dentata, but you’re used to her kisses and wild invocations for penetration and submissive spreadings.
In her lust she accommodates you. In her anger she asks you to accommodate her.
This you are not capable of doing. This is beyond your frame of reference. Ever since mommy tore you from her redeeming breast, and God told you that you were a bastard, you’ve been looking for someone to VALIDATE your painful existence, to take it from you and serve it back up to you on a plate lovingly adorned with garnishes of forgiveness and attentions. When she is lusty she will do this for you; when she is angry she will do this for herself, inspite of herself, despite herself.
If she refuses to subsume or submit, you consider her to be difficult and unstable, morbid and unreliable, rude and utterly fallible.
In anger she stands before you naked and raw. Anger, like a riot, is the last vestige of refusal, confused, indiscriminate, incoherent. And so she riots, but not for you. She throws bottles and bricks, but not at you. She cannot win this particular confrontation, but that’s not her aim. She doesn’t have an aim. Anger, like all faithful passion, is an explosion, desperately unfocussed. There’s no such thing as precision bombing, clitoral damage will occur. Molotov cocktails need no olives or fancy umbrellas.
Sit down, chug your beer, I’m ripping up cloth.
July the day after the night before:-
The personality is not fractional or fictional; it is not possible to divide it with a line and suggest a beginning, middle and end. Instead, we are like paper, foldable only eight times. There is no infinite regress.
The personality is both fractional and fictional; we are infinitely divisible, a series of markings measure our temper and temperament. We bear no relation to paper, except for our creases; we cannot even communicate with paper, hence the wafer and transubstantiation.
Dried grasses …
I am not Cleopatra
And you are not Mark Anthony.
I will not clasp a snake to my breast
And you will not fall on your own sword.
Octavius is not waiting outside the city gates,
And no Roman legions, legends or lessions apply …
Mundanity overtakes mythology. Dirty washing spews out of the basket in the bathroom. It is of no consequence that you make the bed every morning. Tragedy does not rest on dual pillars of discipline and domesticity.
A skipping rope hangs slack/lies coiled/invents knots while it rests. I remember its concrete slaps in a once arced motion, my feet grazing the ground during imprecise, shuffled landings. As a child I was more up than down. Flight, no matter how miniscule, did not elude me. These days, motion, even on a horizontal plane, is problematic.
There is a particular species of insect in which the male, who is fifty times smaller than the female, spends his lifetime as a parasite living in her abdomen. He leaves once, to fertilise her, and then dies immediately.
Of dissident value is menstrual blood; 99.5% of the time it serves absolutely no function, except to support failure.
The dissident, like the dilettante, is a necessary component of modern society. As Kurt Vonnegut once said “I tell you, we are here on earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you any different”.
Athenian democracy, as we know it, in terms of it being that THING purportedly held to our breasts (either our implanted breasts, or our uselessly nippled breasts, or our prepubescent breasts, or our – once in a lifetime for about ten years – fucking perfect breasts, or our sagging breasts), PURPORTEDLY HELD TO OUR BREASTS, lasted about one hundred and fifty years. Its end was signalled by the death of Socrates. He was given a stark choice. He drank hemlock and so died, puking and shitting and racked with convulsions. Why? Because he denounced the gods. He was a dissident.
We have now a new God; money, worshipped within the paradigm of capitalism. Mammon. How we love our disposable incomes, always created out of someone elses’ surplus value. The money in your bank account is not yours. Those neatly folded notes nestling in the back of your wallet ARE NOT YOURS. Those nice, warm coins, snuggled up in your trousers pocket A R E NoT youRs. You only have it because it’s been STOLEN from someone else; the person who slaved in a sweatshop making said wallet or jeans wrapped round your ARSE, the shoes on your feet, the plastics your food comes in …
And to the dissidents, who are the dissidents? Today’s terrorists have been ‘re-branded’ as ‘criminals’; funda/mentalists we like to call them. Fundus, ‘the base or bottom of the organ, the part remote from the external aperture’ (OED). Extremists. Murderers. THEY KILL INNOCENT CIVILIANS in pursuit of their cause. Of course the civilians are innocent, shrouded up in their ignorance, bleating their pathetic excuses of powerlessness. But there’s the paradox, one martyr, one dissident, show us all EXACTLY how powerful we are.
Let’s make this W(with a capital W)estern centric, to reflect the values of world politik and throw in a bit of history. Consider for a moment the IRA. Why, oh why, oh fucking why, did they bomb the mainland? It’s all a mystery, except it’s not. They bombed the mainland, according to their statements, in order to ‘Bring the war home’. How are a people going to know they’re at war if they don’t FEEL like they’re at war. War has casualties. We needed casualties.
And now the Red Army Faction, more specifically Ulrike Meinhof. She said “Protest is when I say this does not please me. Resistance is when I ensure what does not please me occurs no more”. That’s excellent, that’s truly and edifyingly excellent. Supposedly she hanged herself, awaiting trial, I’m sure the state’s hands were clean, the fact they removed her BRAIN without seeking any sort of permissions is entirely excusable.
And to my point, I think, perhaps. I saw an author being interviewed the other day. “How do you write women so well?”
“I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability.”
Jack Nicholson, ‘As Good as It Gets’.
We, women, are simultaneously defiled and revered for our perceived stupidity and weaknesses. Our anger becomes ’a tantrum’, our passion becomes ’lust’. We’re unreasonable, hysterical, unless full frontal, in which case we’re desirable, but also culpable. There is no situation where we can possibly considered winners, or even participants.
The dissident woman is the strongest image I can think of that disrupts this equation. I bet Boudica was ugly, I almost hope she was, but I don’t expect she thought that of herself, she didn’t have time, she was a warrior. Similarly, Silvia Pankhurst, probably couldn’t be bothered with all that shite. She was fighting for universal suffrage, and then, when it became apparent that ‘rights’ were just a sop to the whining, liberal intelligentsia, she fucked off to Ethopia. Meinhof was our last and our best. These days, the male martyrs take the yoke, because they certainly don’t have the crowns, and we find ourselves, once again, alienated and vilified. Sure, there is passion, but it’s polite, decadent, dressed up in leather and lace, panting platitudes and, invariably, oh so fucking accommodating.
Sitting on a tree trunk in the old forest. In front of me dense leaves, the colour of mid summer, soft green before it becomes harsh khaki. The bark under my buttocks arranged in fine ridges, grey rather than brown, thin fingers, shallow grooves.
I stand and begin to walk the path. It's red, the soil has a dusty quality, smooth and warm. Looking at my feet. They're moving slowly, falling with certainty. I know this place. I've been here many times. And then the forest begins to clear. In front of me is a large, grassy area. To my left I can hear water. The trees fall away from me to my right. I can still hear the birds singing up in the branches. In the distance purple topped mountains. Closer a temple, round, pale skinned, blank windows set into thick walls. There are steps, four of them, massively horizontal, hewn out of light rock, perfectly worked into straight angles. At the top a dias, ridged to form sun rays, and then a door, above which is carved Malkuth. I've been here before. I know this place.
Inside pale becomes glinting orange, the light of sunset. Looking up and the ceiling is a dome, around which runs a balcony. The Ashim sing from the balcony, their flame bodies moving with breath and rhythm. They welcome me, some brush over my skin, with their words and music and spirit bodies. Their heat refreshes me.
I see the lady, throned, her hair coiled about her head, her arms resting gently at her sides. She smiles. I incline my head. Her clothes are richly decorated, with gold threads and lush red velvets. Although she is antiquated I can sense her agelessness. She is neither young nor old, instead she just is, seated in her place, her proper place, and I am her guest.
Three doors. On the left one marked XX, Judgement. Going. Not wanting to go. I cry a lot. It is fear real, ethereal. To want and not want. To feel desire and to be repelled. Forwards. Backwards. Swinging time.
Through the door and the ground is wet, clotted. The earth path here is dark. Underfoot rotting leaves and broken twigs. The leaves squelch. The twigs crunch. They are being squashed, breaking.
I am in a graveyard. Old tombstones rise before my eyes. One on the right, near the path, is covered in lichen and green moss. I cannot make out the inscription. In the distance I see a mausoleum. It's square, white, columned with a pyramid roof. Someone important has died. They raised a shrine. Many of the tombstones are broken, lying at crumbled angles. There is a coffinesque one a few yards away. It's lid is missing. My feet are wet. My hair is bound in elaborate coils and my white shift is damp and clinging to my body. I rise up, blood returns to my lips, it is as if I am waking from a very long dream, a dream that has kept me in this coffin for many years. I watch myself walk towards myself and then I join, black and white with colour. I feel my chill.
Above me a white light, conical, starting as a pinprick up in the night sky and falling to ground in shafts of luminescence. I don't need to be scared. I am not blind. Everything is throw into sharp focus as I recognise him from his sword. Michael. He who has counselled me to take the blood of harvest into my wintering heart. He showed me once what to do with the seed, how to tuck it away and keep it safe until the spring would help to bring forth its promise.
The sword, double edged, shining steel, a hand guard, worked gold. His gown is white. He does not speak. I know already. I always have and always will.
Another door, thrown open into brilliance, a space with no walls, no floors, no ceilings. I cannot fathom the distance or proportions. This light is blinding and breathtaking. To step in? The door has been opened.
In front of me a wide staircase, stretching from beneath to above, curving around, encompassing. Marble. Alabaster. Iridescent clouds. I do not require air to be able to breathe.
Walking down the stairs, a man with a staff, he has two snakes, but I can barely see them. He flickers in and out of my vision, part of the light, part of my perception. The snakes provide the only colour, brown and green, a solidity of muscle and movement. He becomes a she, with breasts, his hair tied behind his head, her feet padding on the marble, all is toneless, there is no silver or gold or sound, just white and light. Silky satin.
Her lips move. He is talking to me. Hearing has no place in this space. Listening is irrelevant. Lips are moving. There is no strain, no gain. Lips are moving and they are beautiful in their movement.
She takes me by the hand, but not by the hand. He has my hand and I have her hand, yet there is no grip or force.
Up the stairs and everything shrinks. At the apex I find myself in a small room. Walls are brushed cream. The floor is boarded with dark wood. Along the walls bookshelves, filled with leather bound tomes. There are desks, a person sitting at each, their backs to me. They are silent. They are working.
I am led down a central aisle, past the desks. No-one lifts their heads. In small alcoves bell jars sit on plinths. I do not know what is inside them. There is a geared machine, proportioned to fit on a small table. Brass cogs. A turning device. The sphere rotates silently. And then an empty desk. I sit. The wood is very old, a black patina is engraved into a polished dark brown surface. An ink pot. A feathered quill. The feather is beautiful, fine, an abstract white not white. Set into the desk three buttons, brass, big, the size of my palm.
I press the left button. It shows me everything I know. Rapidly words and images flash in front of my eyes: 'The Seventh Seal', incalculate, a magnesium flare. I press the right button. It shows me everything I do not know: colours I have never seen, fascinating words, a wiring diagram. I press the middle button and a book appears, hard backed, dense woven fabric, blacker than black, the titled engraved in silver: 'HOD'. I open the book and begin to read.