— — —
At Bristol Zoo in the mid 1990s I watched an LED display of the world’s increasing population. The figure was juxtaposed with the decreasing acreage of rainforest. What I mean is, I am interested in sequence.
I am not certain about the origins of our alphabet. I know that my name begins with the letter R and I was named after nobody in particular. My middle name is my father’s name. My father’s name is David. St. David is the patron saint of Wales. I don’t know what St. David did.
St. George (patron saint of England) killed a dragon. St. George’s day is April 23, also Shakespeare’s birthday and the day on which Shakespeare died. I’ve often wondered which season I’d prefer to die in. Which day of the week.
— — —
Alfred died in the early hours of New Year’s Day, thirteen years ago. I was sleeping on the floor of my cousin’s room, had heard the telephone ring in the night. When I was younger, at school or church or somewhere, the teacher told us that if the phone rings in the night, it’s rarely good news.
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. I was born on a Tuesday. Or a Wednesday.
By all accounts, there was a terrible blizzard. Driving was dangerous. Maybe my mother and I had to spend an extra day in the hospital.
When my sister was born in 1982, I was given a plastic machine gun. The gun was wrapped in Union Jack wrapping paper. In the hospital there was a woman with a yellow cast on her leg. Perhaps that was a different hospital. That night I slept at Andrew Young’s house. I woke when it was still dark, built a train track all over the bedroom floor. I think this was the way I dealt with waking for the first time in a room that wasn’t mine.
— — —
What is 1982?
A silent movie.
What is silence?
Simultaneously a widow and a bird. Like similar movies, it would have often been accompanied by piano. When Erik Satie claimed to be a phonometrician rather than a musician, he meant that he measured and wrote down sounds. The word “poet” makes me uncomfortable.
The measurement of sound is contained in migration: the controlled (read: innate) movement of bodies. A collective body. It’s an uncommon but good wheeze to stay up all night and rewrite the dictionary. Although I’m familiar with the various parts of speech, I don’t consider them close friends. Think about this as an example: it’s just as well we stopped at the airport for you to show me the aeroplanes because when we got to the driving range we found it closed for the season.
— — —
I have tried to understand death as related to the idea of waking. I am not certain of the name for this relation. It may be more appropriate to ask somebody better acquainted with mathematics.
We drove to a beach where the rock was said to be rich with fossils. I knew about ammonites and trilobites and harbored dreams of owning a metal detector.
Fossils, like windows, are moments of discourse. Music is distinct from the measurement and transcription of sound. It is a form of recurrence.
I have tried to understand waking as the moment when the world ceases to make sense. Maybe one day everything will be collected in sequence and bound with leather.
— — —
Despite his twentieth-century notoriety, Tutankhamen is considered a minor king. I think Frank Sinatra was buried with a tootsie roll, a roll of quarters, other New Jersey artifacts. I keep telling Rohini they should put a change machine in the laundry room. It’s 2008 and I’m 29 years old.
According to Sartre the activity of consciousness is a constant reappraisal of the past in the light of a projected future. In this sense, fiction is revealed as the most popular form of immortality. I don’t think I’m going to explain this any further.
— — —
I suppose the difference between a house and a burial chamber has to do with windows. Since neither coffins nor sarcophagi have windows, the difference between them is primarily linguistic. I am thinking of this in terms of Saturday and Sunday. Incidentally, it is now Wednesday evening and the pink flowers I bought as buds have bloomed on the kitchen counter.
Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered by Howard Carter on November 4, 1922. Exactly 73 years later, Gilles Deleuze committed suicide by throwing himself from the window of his Paris apartment. Julio Cortázar recommends that the reader begin his novel Hopscotch at chapter 73. Julio Cortázar died on February 12, 1984, exactly 175 years after Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born.
— — —
I think the northwest drizzle bothered me less than you because I grew up in a place where the sky was often grey. What I will say is that the West Country clouds and the light pollution from the city of Bristol made the sky look orange at night.
What is night?
It is best understood as rhythm. We gave most of our furniture away.
How we have arrived is as important to me as how we will leave. I realize now that all of our moving expenses were tax deductible but at the time we never thought to save our receipts. In the same way, I am beginning to realize that the biggest question is movement. I mean, the question from which all other questions derive.
Lights’ abode, celestial Salem, vision whence true peace doth spring, brighter than the heart can fancy, mansion of the highest king.
It’s impossible to tell how long Deleuze waited at his window before deciding to throw himself out. Perhaps the decision had been reached long before he approached the window. In the same dream, I am standing at the side of the road in New Jersey. I have just crashed the car and I’m trying not to lose my balance. There are pink flowers on the median.
— — —
The United States contains at least ten cities of Bristol. Each is in a different state: Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Maine.
We flew home from Orlando International on July 17, 1992. I took everything: pamphlets, menus, cups, even a toilet roll wrapped in Mickey Mouse paper. I believed that if I carried these things with me, then they would stay with me, become part of me. I mention this in relation to Frank Sinatra, Howard Carter, and the realization that in these rooms inside apartments we are collecting the items that will grant us passage.
This is how Bristol, Indiana, exists as the dream of Bristol, England. And America, as it is known, as the waking dream of all who have arrived. What is known as the American Dream is a reduction. The common and singular dream of these dreams simplified into linear narrative. I am trying to write the perfect American story: the book whose name is God.
— — —
I tried to tack the cups to my bedroom wall but they wouldn’t stick. I tried to find space for these fetishes but could not build a shrine. Instead they were packed inside a cardboard box that my father carried to the attic. Beside the box was a brown suitcase. Inside were the various gifts I received upon baptism, presumably the items I would need for my passage into life. A miniature pewter tankard, a porcelain thimble, a signet ring sized to fit a child, an actual silver spoon.
— — —
Following the Great Fire of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral was rebuilt with Portland stone. The Republic Plaza in Denver is constructed from reinforced concrete clad in Sardinian granite. It is the city’s tallest building. The equivalent structure in Bristol is St. Mary Redcliffe parish church, a gothic edifice next door to which, in a small house in 1752, Thomas Chatterton was born.
St. Mary’s Vicarage, Shirehampton, is located in a close off the High Street, next door to the church and across the road from the working men’s club. I mention this because the attic of this house contains a brown suitcase and a box of pamphlets, menus, cups, a toilet roll wrapped in Mickey Mouse paper.
— — —
Once a month for the three or four years that bridged the 1980s and ’90s, we would drive for an hour to go to church with my cousins in Tewkesbury. The church was cold and damp. Above the pulpit on the wall of the nave was the inscription “All Must Die.”
Rohini asked me why I was writing about death. I said I didn’t know and that I was also writing about birth. I said that death seems both distant and inevitable.
The nightly news does not erode this distance.
Watching my blood through a needle into color-coded vials does not erode this distance.
The impossibility of a perfect circle does not erode this distance.
I am formulating various ways to achieve proximity, designing rituals to perform over and over. Such is the movement achieved by prayer:
— — —
I ask each rose its bidding then bury my appendix on the lawn.
So I might find it again, I map the garden and pace the relevant distance.
I put the map in a tinder box and bury it with Giotto.
The coffin is tiny, the wood thin and knotted. It is less a coffin, more a box.
There is no coffin: the remains are carried in sackcloth and bound with twine.
Any arrangement can be perceived as sequence, the bridge was built this way. Giotto understood the need for a more efficient passage across the estuary so the various ______s were allowed to bloom.
I ask each rose its bidding and bury Giotto on the lawn.
So I might wake him again, I confuse estuary with afterlife.
God is a conversationalist as well as a father. There are seventeen types of rose in this garden and they all belong to you.
I cradle his head on the lawn.
Past, present, inside. Nothing is getting better or worse. It is only changing.
I do not understand the transition. I hold you until you disappear.