Back Ultrameta


The music stops, the blood boils down to nothing, to clear water, to air. At last we move beyond the noise of flesh and I can see things as they are, breathing in the vacuum, hearing what the silence says.

Stripped of hunger, of lust, of heat and cold, I see you naked of everything, even of skin and bone. I meet you in the half-light, in the cool hush of the abandoned places, the boarded-up rooms of the old house. How musty it is, the dust floating in the air, the damp walls talking to each other about us, exchanging memories, making secret symphonies of our traces, our smells. Decay is a cosmic undertaking, a grand project. This is how the divine lavishes its sadness and love upon us at last, after so many years watching from afar, unrequited. It is how nature consumes its own children, a beautiful obscenity, sacred and profane.

You are a pattern of wallpaper in a locked bedroom now. I am the white net curtains, fading and rotting, eaten by dust. But through the shutters and the glass the summer morning light still pierces my heart of an occasion, and I inflect and refract this warmth, and send its beam to play upon the far wall: where your printed pattern of leaves then curls and dances again in memory, the old gramophone records play, the floorboards creak under the dance steps of our vanished feet.

I am a rusting iron spike in the overgrown garden, lost among the grasses. I was once gleaming metal, was once the frame of a swing that I sat in as a child, kicking the earth away with my feet, straining my face forward and upward with each foray into the sky, into the imagined future. On quiet afternoons, I closed my eyes as I swung, longing to fly, the inside of my eyelids red under the sunlight, strange patterns on them like folded wings.

You are the still surface of the lily pond now choked with moss and weed, where sunlight plays and glimmers, blinking between the swaying reeds. The flicker and glow of the light is your smile, your laughing face. More than the sum of its parts, beyond mere biology: your face was an amphitheatre where the divine came to play; to make miracles happen, summoned by my words, my prayers.

I am the carpet now old and worn, rolled in a corner: which once spread luxuriantly across the wide lounge. Soon the new people will manhandle me down the stairs, take me to the garden and burn me, make smoke of our memories. But once: my weave held your little wet feet as you emerged from the shower. Once: I cradled us as we sat together in front of the open fire on winter evenings. My pattern was like the long straight furrows of endless tawny-coloured fields. Our eyes played along those furrows as we sat and talked, lying on the floor on Sunday mornings, debating the meaning of life, but never unlocking it.

You are the old severed wires, redundant electrics, bypassed by the new people. Secret tangles left buried in walls, under floors. Connections that can no longer mean anything, carry no current, eternal puzzles. But to us, in our time, they brought us light and heat, meals we cooked together, glimmers in your eyes as we sat at the table, warmth in your hands. The pathways of our lives are thus re-routed, closed over now, become mazes, labyrinths, prisons from which we may never escape.

I am the dark green ivy that eats into the blonde stonework of the house, climbing skyward incredibly slowly, patiently, a ladder for ants; a landscape on which centuries of their histories is enacted. My feet have spread across the patio, I climb and drape myself like a paternal blanket over the shoulders and waists of the statues of nymphs, protecting their modesty. Their sightless eyes bear tears of moss now. I stuff their ears and mouths with my news of the fall of civilisation, the sleep of reason. The pipes are choked and rusted now, no water runs.

You are the sunset in the garden, the shimmering of water vapour rising from the earth as the summer sun glows red and orange, sinking as if wounded, into the tangle of nettles and long grass. You are the wide pale sky of blue along the flat horizon, yellow at its base like the curling edges of a fading book that nobody will ever read again. I see your figure appear in the haze, and wild red roses climb and twist inside you, lifting their lazy heads, their thorns harmless now to their only admirers: the tiny pilots, the clouds of insects, birds light as feathers.

I am the old chest of drawers in the hallway that we bought in a junkshop and sanded down together, then the days of varnishing, sleeping freezing cold with the windows open in October, so as not to choke from the fumes of the varnish. The grain emerged slowly under our hands, the warm colour of bare wood like living flesh revealed. We brought life back to the inanimate, and now in return I live here in the drawers and the ornate legs. Perhaps you are the handles: that you polished so meticulously, the steel wool running around all the elaborate twists and turns and flourishes, rubbing until your fingers were red and sore.

Will the new people ever rest? Or must they press on until they have obliterated every trace of us? They can never succeed. We wore down that doorstep that they now traverse daily without thinking. They are one with us. Strangers, and yet strangely intimate. When all the paint we brushed on is gone, papered over or chipped off, there is still the sound of our brushes patiently tip-tapping through the corridors of time, our sighs, our laughter. Though they make a pyre of our belongings in the garden and burn it, still you and I will meet and mingle in the sweet smoke that mounts the sky, serenaded by autumn crows.

We watch the new people sometimes. We are there in their mirrors, flowing at the corners, turning backwards in the steam of their baths. We are in their floorboards, creaking, bearing the weight of their future on the strength of our past. We carry them as they walk about on their little errands and chores. We bear what they do to us, we endure it because we understand everything they do. They think they are so new, so unique, an experiment that might not work, people so good that they cannot possibly die. But it has all happened before, and the pattern is as good and as familiar to the touch as the grain in the leg of a chest of drawers, sanded or varnished or painted, seen or unseen, the pattern is the same, the pattern is unchanging.

The minds of the new ones are closed, we cannot enter there. But their children's laughter is like waterfalls or beating wings. For a few years, before the world claims them back, we can play in their daydreams, this is our refuge. When they play alone, we talk to them, guard over them, show them pictures in our head, open up doors to other worlds. We will always have children now, you and I, because we live where they go to dream.

Maybe there are some things of ours in the attic, and when the new people find them they will sift cruelly through them, discarding what is not valuable or antique. Perhaps an old photo shows your smile, as alien to them as our outmoded fashions, our antiquated clothes. Our drawings and paintings will all vanish into the flames. They will think we were cute and quaint, how sad that we were not immortal like them. But we whisper in their window frames, in their attic timbers as they creak in the wind at night: we were like you, and you will be like us...

I cannot remember the moment of my death, our death. It scarcely matters here. It is as if all of life were just an incubation, the sleep of a caterpillar in its pupa, preparing to be freed and released into this flood of golden light and knowledge. Imagine a view from the highest point in the world, from which all can be seen, without eyelids to blink, nor head to turn.

I remember instead the words of my father once, when I was alive; a child on a distant beach, holding his hand, overwhelmed by the beauty of a summers day by the sea. The beaches were not yet polluted then, the world was still young, man had not defiled nature. Sunlight in my curly blonde hair, my little head was struggling to express what I felt to him, the emotion that arose inside me at the sight of the golden fields on the coast, the breaking waves on the rocks and sand, the grandeur of it all.

I know son, I know... -he said, -sometimes your inside just gets too big for your outside. Then perhaps I guessed for the first time what I know now: that the body falls away like the skin of an orange, peeling as the hot sun rises in the sky of our hearts. Fear nothing. We are found, we are all found, and nothing is lost.

(First published in Dreamcatcher Magazine Issue 20).

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