Flights Home


The night birds are back (she leans her head back on the chair as if asleep). Soon, perhaps tomorrow (he shouts at her that tomorrow she’s to leave the room forever), the sky will be lower here where I live. The light burns my eyes (she looks at him as he speaks, eyes wide open). Mountains from every window (she goes to the window and looks out) and doorway. Sometimes storm clouds (a curious green glow comes from the long smooth clouds of dawn) gather, darkening floors, and tables: they pass. Late summer is cooler, a savoury breeze as if off the sea (all is forgotten, nothing happens but the motion of the sea, the passing of the nights, the tears). The mountains (in the Valley of Flowers she lives for a time surrounded by three of the best things of life: mountains, flowers, and birds) are covered in bracken. It is a long time (but horror too is a word from that time before the blind leap of his crime) since I walked on their slopes. The town is almost (he comes back through the carriages where almost all the shades are up, almost all the travellers already awake) deserted. The quarry (she walks to the quarry, down the road, in the sun) abandoned. I had no reason (the anxiety which is due to inner compulsion has no apparent reason) to go that I could imagine. There’s (and there’s a constant uproar of furniture arriving, laboriously carried up the stairs) no-one I have stayed for either. There is quiet and the wind (no walkers brave the cold wind).

It is not pitch dark (the night is delicately vast and dark), near dawn, nothing to do, to be done. I could be (he can not fool himself, whatever he writes can only be something he writes because he can not write the-other-thing) afraid, quick as a wink. I could do something – light the lamp and the stove, read, pack up Samuel’s belongings (what sort of personal belongings does she travel with) – but I don’t, nothing wants doing. I remember what I remember (she will remember nothing of the afternoon) as shadows, threads. I don’t (I don’t know how to write, he says) remember being young. I hardly remember this (this is certainly possible, considering how stuffy it is at night) town. I don’t know for sure that I lived (she has never lived in a room where it is this easy to work) here, back then. What I do remember comes slowly and makes me unsure I touched (at this contact he realizes just how long it has been since any hand has touched his with gentleness), or sat, or spoke, or heard, or smelt. What I remember seems far ahead, as moments (the idea of a long journey produces many soothing moments) worn, beyond. It’s too bad, waking before morning (it’s a morning when she does not want to speak about the night and the kisses).

I am (she is planning to say: the fact is that I am afraid of a certain fierce joy that has begun to take me over) thirsty, shining in my chair with the clouds and the window. I go out (he pulls a big silver watch out of his vest pocket, opens it, listens to it) behind the shed to the tank. The water is grey, then clear (the night is ending, calm and clear), I cup my hands and drink until light-headed. I look (but he will look only at her) directly to where the others live. No, they are not (eating just on dusk is important) itinerants, they are nothing, no-one that I know, they are made of something else, lost to me, eyeless, and that’s not all, I am sure. I see the opening (the movements of opening and closing are so numerous) of the gorge. They are not at home (inhabited space bears the notion of home). Perhaps they are forging a road out (the remainder of the day goes fairly poorly: lunch is out of the question), over the mountains. I should go up the mountain (what mountaineer is there who does not enjoy a secret satisfaction in having climbed a mountain in less time than someone else) again, and see what I can see, take my time, tread the ground. At least I should think (she watches herself think) of tracks. There is a line of light coloured shapes (his body enters the shapes of words), washing on the line. When I stopped reading (he is reading slowly) the silence returned. Do the others sleep (several times running she goes to sleep by the wall) deep.

Way up at the tips the light (only the spider webs are delicate in the light) flicks through like stars. The slope is steep and I have no strength (with renewed strength she is singing in the kitchen) to go far. I turn (he tries to turn his eyes away) and look at the stream and the town. The hall looks small (there is also a small glass case in which she can see the head of St. Joseph decorated with shiny paper flowers), old and pale, and sad, crying and tender. I see my house and those of the others, but not the women’s street (she takes closer notice of the street vendors and makes an effort to observe things that had so far escaped her). I’d like to be in their house again, by the fire, with the heat on my arms (he puts his arms around her). Curled, with nothing to do, nowhere to go, no story (every reader is struck by the story of the flowers). I’ve stayed a long (behind a long table sits a man with thick hands, who speaks to her) time, the afternoon has leaked away. I don’t even feel the water (one moment the foam leaps before his eyes in whitish flakes, the next the absence of water takes hold of him) when I wade and splash my way back. Hurriedly I dress to race the cold (she is looking for a pretext to take a breather from her forced march through the cold). And stride, well almost, all the way back (when she finally gets back into the sleigh, she has two large packages), slam the hall door and rush toward that fireplace.

I leaned against the door and wondered what he thought (startled at his thought, he interrupts himself). I wanted (with a certain graveness he wanted to know this very serious moment) to see the man, I’d wait for him. The day was hot, the sky cloudless, the light (a lake absorbs all the light and makes a world of it) too bright for this hour, a beating melting light, hot and hard. I wondered what he thought, I thought again, and saw a shell (she sees an enormous mussel shell in which some ten people are seated, with four children and a dog): myself years away, somewhere foreign, surely a memory, by the sea, from which I can’t return, and that I’d always, from now on, believe, and be in two places at once.

I hear the black car, and then see it creep down to the road beside (the workman beside him unfastens the strings of his knapsack and pulls out a jewel case, which he opens to show a necklace of glass beads) the stream. It stops level with the woman who turns and hurries across the white (there are only window-panes that turn black with shiny lights as she goes through a tunnel, then white like snow) terrace, head down. The driver eases out (as he crushes out his butt in the ash tray he notices that he has only ten cigarettes left, then he picks up the book off the seat) and opens the back door for her. The car (she has stopped the car at the hotel door) passes the hall. I am caught out on the steps, the door still (behind the head of the old man opposite her, who is still reciting to himself some long poem ... the photograph of mountains, partly hidden by his hat, forms a sort of halo) closed behind me. The thick-set man is in the back too, but he doesn’t (she doesn’t say why she’s late) look my way. They disappear into the women’s street, and then I see the car up high again (her face melts again), past my house. I open the hall door (if she were to give an account of each door she has closed and opened, of all the doors she would like to open, she would have to tell the story of her entire life).

I went over to the nearest shelf and (it seems like the story of someone who goes and does not come back) re-arranged several books. I could see that with time a pattern would emerge, little (it is a little text without breath that has rhythm, and the sentence without sentence that comes to her is: a writing) necessary changes. He came and stood next to me looking at the titles with his head (he feels her hand stroke his head, which is already a little bald) on a lean, he didn’t touch them. He walked to the centre of the room (she watches him enter the room as she does every day, with the same emotion as the first time in the cafe by the sea) and looked around. I guess he was seeing my work (to work is to allow the obvious, to come) for the first time. The ceiling (a vaulted ceiling is a principle of dream) is high, he said, as if he’d uncovered a rule. It wasn’t bothering me that he (he radiates a pleasure) was in the hall.

The main street was even bleaker, the wind as strong as I’d ever known, dark purple clouds (it is for the vignettes they afford us that we are (al)most grateful to clouds) skimming the mountains, the sky was forming. Everything (suddenly she begins to hate everything, and he knows she wants to go away) looked foreign, the grim light lifted my spirits as I rounded the corner to the women’s house. My house on the hill (the night sky is beautiful at any latitude and any altitude, but it is never more beautiful than when viewed from a hill) was picturesque, a place to visit. My body (everything presses in, the body is upsetting) was joined together, the top of my head burning, and I pictured the house as belonging to someone I knew.

(Thanks to many texts.)