He lost his father when he
was eight years of age. Rainstorms joined an early spring thaw that
rapidly melted so much ice the river's swollen rush swept even the most
stable of structures that lay in its path. His father's body was found
entangled in the broken branches of a weeping willow – reputedly the
largest tree in the county. As he was trying to rescue a stranded dog
in the river he was struck by falling branches, knocked unconscious and
the rising waters did the rest. His dad was as generous as the tree
that killed him. Ben then became puzzled by death and what was meant by
a conversation he overheard at his dad's wake: 'he always went to the
limit didn't he, Pat?' 'He did indeed, always, John, always.'
Ben's solace was to spend hours climbing the trees
at the back of his home in the upstate New York hamlet and to watch the
migrating song birds come in spring. His words for birds were not those
of the ornithologist, a red cardinal was a fire engine plane, a
woodpecker a flying drummer, a blackbird was a priest. He would wonder
where they had come from, some exotic place in Central America or maybe
from Brazil where Pele, his favourite soccer player, came from. He
liked the idea of having two places to live in. He thought the trees
shook their leaves to applaud the birds' songs. Ben tried to copy their
singing and tried to fly like them by swinging from branch to branch.
This mimesis continued into the autumn when he noticed the birds
departing south so he decided to follow them. He climbed to the highest
branch of the tallest tree and jumped to fly. He was flying to meet his
dad in secret, the other place.
Restless, perhaps provoked
by the shafts of light from the full moon through the sky-lights
bothering me, I get out of bed and head for the lake, take the kayak
out with some words on my mind for company. We glide down to the reed
marsh at the outlet. The silence of the night heightens recognition of
mystery. Tree roots and tree leaves are asleep. The music of the day
seeps into the earth. A stilled clear night and the stars are already
starting to stutter with the competing moon for attention.
Someone else is bothered by the moon. A black
cloaked heron with a white collar glides past me and lands at the edge
of the reeds. A flash of splash from the harpoon beak breaks the calm –
a gluttonous gulp betrays real hunger. It is obviously not the moon.
The words on my mind leave me and the heron speaks in a mildly
fricative voice that asks a question of our joint incomprehensible
existence. I dissolve into something else and our discussion dwells on
the thingness that is here, the moving thoughts of the soul within the
body and the elusive attempts to connect the tissue of all that is
outside it. 'This happens when you die', said the heron 'so tell me
something new.' I tell him that an ancient question by definition
cannot be new and that I suppose it a permanent question of existence
for all living things from our primeval soup to this now-nearness. I
drift further down the outlet as waters always seek the sea even as we
sleep. He flies low past me again and softly squawks 'Yes, separation
of our thingness and our desire for fusion is our lot and you are not
what I am for I can fly away from the question and seek the solace of
the sea-gods. What’s your solace?'
My solace remains in the alone, in the silent
remains of the night, silently silent and in the joy of this
incomprehensible night and in being now more bothered than when I set
Glistening Gleam of Things
Treading softly up the
stairs of the Mauritshuis Museum, I arrive at the top landing somewhat
fatigued, turn left and enter the end gallery room. There it is, not a
reflection of light but a source of light, View of Delft. Marcel Proust
claimed this to be the most beautiful painting in the world. Staring at
this composition of calm light I begin to dissolve into the pastose and
the wet-on-wet painting. I then land on the foreground and am greeted
by two figures standing on the shore’s edge. They speak to me in Dutch
which by some magic I perfectly understand and I naturally am puzzled
by the mysterious time and light of this scene.
Nervously I enter into a palaver with Maria and
'What is your name?'
'I do not know as I am dissolved.'
'Oh, you must be a ghost come in from the future
then?' Maria smiles calmly.
'Yes, I suppose you can say that. What are you
holding in your right arm?'
'Just some flour and vegetables for my mistress,
'Why did you choose this time in the past to
come?' Magdalena asks.
'Mr. Vermeer invited me with his painting we are
in. Beauty then, I suppose?'
'That Mr. Vermeer invites a lot of people in from
the future and then wipes them out.' Maria adds and both laugh.
I go over to two gentlemen and a woman in conversation on the left and
they calmly acknowledge my presence in a vague nodding gesture. I bend
down and pick up a grain of sand. Then Pieter addresses me with 'oh you
must be here from the future?'
'How do you know that?'
'You look nervous, and you have no hat. Also, all
those who come in from the future always pick up a grain of sand in the
hope of taking back to the future something from our here-now of 1661
and help to stitch together the cloth of human time. They also always,
without fail, appear lost to us.'
As I leave their company I overhear Abraham saying
'we have had no one come in from the past for a long time now. The past
must be all stitched up!' They all laugh.
The dark thunderous cloud threatens us with
water-stars but I see a distant sun-shaft move towards us with its
I re-assemble and stare directly at the scene for
the last time, then turn 180 degrees and there the Girl with a pearl
earring stuns me into tear drops and I melt away again, and this time I
enter a state of deep delirium. She brushes me in two strokes, as
Vermeer did to depict the pearl, and I now remain here in my permanent
home, listening to the singularity of this thisness and glint at the
glistening gleam of all things.
I see a museum attendant calling for a doctor as
there is some man slumped on the floor in front of the painting I am in.
Murray (Ireland – USA)
Pearse Murray is a
native of Dublin, Ireland, and currently lives in Albany, New
York. He has had poems and some
short stories in on-line, print magazines and anthologies, and recently
was placed second in the SALT Short Story Competition.
front page image is copyright ©
by Tony Kitterick, 2012