The sunlight had glistened on the tops of trees. And it was the tops of the trees that had glistened. So, it meant that the sunlight had shone there. And each morning that I had risen from bed, from my sleep, I had looked forward to this. I had looked forward to cold winters, winters during which the snow had never come. And I had looked forward to summers whose rains were just as hot as sweat. Autumns whose colors were like brightened memories. All that had come back again and again, like a sweetness I could almost touch, almost taste, almost see. Everything had hinged on the “almost.” Had I lived in perpetual sunshine, perpetual warmth, the human comfort of love, I could not have been more than a day. It had become like a gaze in whose stark absences longing made me a sort or sorceress, dreaming up tubers of recollection, prophecies of others’ pasts, and soft unguents tending to the morrow. My rake and shovel had kept me company most of the time. I dug more trenches with my hoe, planted more seeds, grew more to eat. I had counted on nothing. I dropped a stone at my feet and was amused by the ever oppressive force of gravity. It alone had never changed. Its certainty could be depended on, relied on, predicted. Even the day’s next coming had seemed a contiguous moment in space and in time. And even death, like a common penny left outside an envelope containing a hand-drawn letter posted to the beloved, was not possessed, was not known, was not held or cradled or kept.
I had had no visible means of support. No web extended from corner to corner holding in place itself where I was crouching waiting for a kill. Not a bunch of leaves packed high up in a tree with all sorts of gathered autumnal debris between forked branches to keep my fur warm during the cold winter. Not a pyramid of gold on which to lay my body nightly and dream. Not even a mountaintop on which to rest my fog. Mine had been entirely invisible. It had been kept there deep inside my mind. It was a place that nobody saw, and nobody had ever seen. The blackness of space of holds itself forever there. And in between there nothing falls and nothing rises all the same. The closest I had felt this once before had been sitting in a yellow wooden chair in a room quietly by myself alone. My arms had been crossed, resting on my thighs. Even my shoulders had been slumped rolled forward just a bit. And my eyes had floated down. For some while of uncertainty all had been so easy. Like the rains of November, it had passed me by like sleep.
I had traveled long ago to lose myself. I went from land to land and scattered my days like ashes for the dead. I spent my years in one regime and another. I had wanted to disappear and with texts in Attic Greek, I read myself into the hinterland of near oblivion and ruin. None of my compatriots had meant a thing to me. And I spoke my mother tongue afar as though it were a foreign language. Conversation became a rough draft; I spent years and years revising that. “My bones and everything was expanded,” I had heard her say behind my booth in a diner back in New York. I had come home, and knew that this is where my oar was pitched to stay. Masters in Tibet wake up when they are home there. And some in monasteries, too. The farther flung, the less likely, the more impossible. The deep sleep of voyaging had once been mine. But that is not home. That is why sailors are restless. The seafaring life is a life between solid ground below your feet and the ever-shifting foam of the ocean. It is never quite one and it is never quite the other. After twenty years in one spot, it occurred to me that only when one’s home is no longer foreground and is no longer background, only when I had seen myself in my own passing painting, or my own film unrecorded, of my own so-called life, putting the dark blue bear-torn plastic lid on the light blue garbage can filled with pine cones from the woods to help me start a fire, could I even begin to have the chance to see. Only then does the ordinary become extra-ordinary, and then even that goes away: the difference between ‘ordinary’ and ‘extra-ordinary,’ like a place holder, a visible bookmark in an invisible book; only then, when that had become what it had been while it was, was anything possible. And after a while, for a while, I watched myself doing my most ordinary daily chores between my tool shed and my house, just after the twinkling of dawn, just when the grass had been frozen still with the night’s white iciness on every blade of it beneath my boots, just then for a little while, when I had disappeared entirely while my eyes like two bright sister stars were completely open, as though I had been God’s true monk sitting atop the world’s tallest mountain.
I hadn’t had my hearing left. I didn’t hear a thing. All memory of tomorrow had been like a rag wiped across a window wiped away. Leaf, salmon, ladybug, when the sounds of these were gone, were like something else less known. Some jumping man jumping across the moon. Everything was fixed. Nothing was flawed. Nothing was in error. The universe was perfect. From it nothing else ever was to be made. No grooves in time were to be split. No diamonds to be cut. Syllables of eternity were etched. I had wished to hear a party horn again, the curled up paper unfolding with a child’s outward breath of joy. I had wished to hear the grating of a metal mailbox’s metal latch. In between the vacuity of all that there must have been some dust, some remaining remnant of the afterlife of being lurking there. Some wolf in the stars must be hiding in that thick mass of darkness, its fur bristled, its yellowed eyes prepared again to gleam, its red tongue hungry for prey, slouching in the infinitesimal to strike.
Time ago it was that he would refuse to admit that in the world as a whole there were three things. Take three blobs of ink, his friend and elder had said, and he shook his pen three times on a sheet of white paper. Young Ludwig with his mad blue eyes would not admit these things to be in the world at all. And that is somewhat the distinction, but not quite, that the open-collared Cambridge philosopher would make between fact and fiction, though I must admit that that is not what he meant at all, and which I am merely borrowing torn from the bastardized template of lost time, du temps perdu, to serve myself if not a nameless master of my own. What might be said about ‘finite assertions’ and infinite abstractions is not so much my interest. Mine is in things like hats, straw hats, if you will. That there were indeed three clowns wearing them in my little clownish world of words and green grass I would like to assert as having been once true. And that these three gentlemen digging up my garden on a summertime whim and dare, when I saw them, they ran off like bolts of lightning through the trees and forever disappeared. Now, another would assert that all I have done is mimicked the difference between ‘fancy’ and ‘imagination’—the former being of a merely mechanized function of memory and the like, and the latter being the supreme creative force of human perception.
Time ago it was not as well, and in that world there were always these three glorious things, ink blots on a folded linen napkin gone to waste, forced upon the young man by an ample yet, alas, second-rate mind. And later on, in this same world, the one that never was, there were always, too, three empty summer hats made of hand-braided straw which never had never been pitched atop a living human head, nor had been ever doffed from three, two, or one. Now before I take my leave, I must do so suggesting only this single proposition: that what I have said here every child who’s known sand to be slipping through its fingers already knows, and that only later on can this a worry ever become, that only then are these same once-children beset with, “Was it true?” or “Was it not?” And of those two last questions, dividing the world itself as such, which have and has never meant that much to me, I must finally end this little sally by having us think upon such things as ‘luminous grey’ or ‘a half-knight’s move” —whether you can imagine them to be or not at all.