As simple an act as closing the eyes


‘I needn’t explain, I think you know’ (Tracey Thorn)

She remembered an open window, a morning, empty-hearted, a night of uncomforted weeping a long time for love. And how afterwards, in the silence following great words of peace, she wrote, ‘I WATCH YOU SLEEP,’ underlined, in the demersal hues of their unmade bed—peace at last, lovely enough to bring them a few hours of shelter, in silence; serenity, in ravishment. And then daylight came, like a haar, sank through the air and drifting stirred the estuary once, and dropped, at length, into the city.

The stuffed motel—in the way of marketable sheen. Wendover, Utah. Her hair hangs black to the floor, her white vest soft and wet with sweat. A shopping bag on the ground outside that nobody notices. A maid pulls back the bed sheet and blinks at the smell. I thought I was passed the memory. Caught more on this dream—of polyprop chairs, Family Dollar, smokes, Channel 5—awake than ever before and ready to return, my eyes open, coming into things by degrees, I found her stain had dried on my mouth. The coffee hot again.

I dreamed she was afraid—The leaves, bleeding on the grass, the smell of wronged flesh, mouldy breath; cankered dreams caught in her hair, waves of sweat tearing at her tongue; the fear to speak, to form what is in the air, my angel sleeps, wet, on our quilted cover—the salt lingers on my fingers when she’s done, while in the distance, through the din of sea birds, white waves over White Scalp dissolve in the obliterating light.

Sometimes they measured out life in little commodities.

Friday 1 July 2016—The last consideration; a siskin in the green wheat field behind the garden, singing in the slow world of the deer. You were in there too, curled up on the ground two hundred metres away, asleep in the warm breath of a fawn. I heard the pale sky fall apart in a shower of soft rain, a little saltiness in the air. Even to fold warm clothes from the dryer for you was enough that day—Limitless joy —Blue evening—What will come to your mind in the hills and the woods of Arcadia.

Repoussoir—Leave the A923 after Forneth and climb the hill past Citie Knowe and Balvidoch to the crossroads at Bishopryfauld. From there go west, past the ‘tradesman’s entrance’ to Snaigow House, and stop short of the ruins of Egmont Castle. By the roadside you will see a tall silver birch without any leaves—it has been asleep for a long time, over one hundred years, haunting the minds and clinging to the hearts of those who live around it. Every evening before sunset an old woman, Polly, takes her golden Labrador, Magnolia, for a short walk before going to bed. And every evening, she bathes with lavender oil, in a matter-of-fact sort of way, but with quiet care and attention, the phosphorescent paper of the lower part of the old tree. Polly’s done this since she was a little girl (with Lebanon, Rose, Gwen and Mandy, before Magnolia) though she’s long forgotten the reason why …

Pushing back a bit further—It freezes a bit of you, the rustling noise of leaves brushing against the grey sky; the emptiness; the brown lumpy mass of fat at the heart of the picture; the cold and clammy tissue of your night-skin dreams, lying immeasurably still; her skin takes on colour …

From the back of the world—Birds catch fire up there in the wind, in the same grey air that you open your window too; breathless, low and quiet, in a dark sky.

Empire …

‘LOVE, you ever want me, DON’T’ in orchid pink lipstick on the mirror in Room 11, Hotel Scandic, Helsinki. / She measures the winter night in the way his face slackens on the bone—each pore, each eyelash, each bead of sweat—deepest indigo, empty, like thought itself.

A note on the references. Anne Carson’s essay is a brilliant work of scholarship and includes references to poems by Elizabeth Bishop (“The Moth-Man’) and novels by Virginia Wolf (‘To the Lighthouse,’ a novel which falls asleep for twenty-five pages in the middle) among others, which there is no requirement for me to duplicate here. There have similarly been a considerable number of published academic studies on ‘Sleep in Art.’ The subject of graffiti itself is not dealt with directly but it’s implicit in the fine grain of the writing—with an interest in ‘what the words say’ in the contexts in which I found them and not just ‘what they look like’ or ‘how they were done.’ Those things I’ve listed here remain of interest to me, have some particular place in Art and Writing that I think fine art students may like to know about, or they have had a direct bearing on this short piece. The references are an idiosyncratic collection and are not intended to be exhaustive; a starting out point perhaps, if anything.

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