Monday, 28 May 2012

Call Me Clarissa (a prose poem)

(in memory of my sixteenth year & in memory of Sally)

It was almost June in London--What she loved; life; London; this 
moment.  Beauty was everywhere; beneath and within; all around
the air; one could breathe it in (as she would do, again and again--
as she always had--remembering the way breath felt that summer
as never again it would; it would be rich; it would be stimulating;
but it would never again wake the heart from its sleeping depths).

What a lark! What a plunge! had it been at sixteen to come alive
to the summer around her; to hear music as if for the first time; 
to lavish summer air and heat against her own skin; to be afraid
of the rush, the radical, racing ride of feelings she had never felt;
to wonder if they would vanish just as quickly, like a dream: such
was her darknessThere was an emptiness about the heart of life; 
an attic room: literally an attic room, with her great-grandmother's
day bed tucked against the low window, the moon peering in; 
pooling against the splintery floor; washing her skin in silver
light. She would light up a cigarette, stashed between cushions
and drag deeply on the filter: it might be possible that the world 
itself is without meaning, she thought. She would hug her knees. 
It is the privilege of loneliness; this late hour when everyone else
is sleeping; in privacy one may do as one chooses. The light has
a kind of caress (and wasn't she craving being touched?); freedom
in silence and stillness and the low hum of insects--this summer,
the summer she learned to drive; the whole world pouring over
her forehead and through her hair on those winding roads; music
all her own (the first bands she'd adored) and how possible every-
thing seemed. (Blues Traveler would sing, "The sun is warm
as the day is long, and I just got the feeling I could do no wrong.")
Everything was heat and pressure and waves and waves of feeling;
all was feeling; was there anything else? How unbelievable death 
was!--that it must end; and no one in the whole world would know 
how she had loved it all; how, every instant... She tucked her toes
into the crevices of the day bed, fiddled with the half-empty lighter, 
looked into the open arms of the trees, their heavy silhouettes against
the sky's unearthly blue (like the light in those El Greco paintings
in Art History class; what did Dr. Myers say?--"technicolored
clouds"); What is it? she wondered aloud, softly.  Where am I? 
And why, after all, does one do it? Are we not all prisoners? She
drank of the cigarette, wanting to savor the smoke, remembering
how from that first weekend they'd all tried it at Christy's she hadn't
--couldn't enjoy what she'd hoped would be sublime but seemed
instead to burn in her throat. She rubbed out the burning tip against
the edge of the sill--discrete ash to blend in with the insect carcasses 
and bits of screen. That was it; all of it: What she liked was simply life

Nearly June in London, and she thought only of the unseen part of us;
the great unfathomable space inside each person--all that we feel; all
that we love; all that we do and think about every day; things we do
not say. But--but--why did she suddenly feel, for no reason that she 
could discover, desperately unhappy? It washed back over her; Sally
was gone forever, the Kiwi girl with freckles from lower school she 
had so enjoyed whenever they were out with Carrie and the others--
gone with so much lost; so much unfinished; so much unsaid, undone,
left behind. That's it: absorbing, mysterious, of infinite richness, this life.
So what is this terror? what is this ecstasy? How immense it all is, how
gone in an instant--the whole colossal weight of it undone, vanished
to dust. How it is certain we must die and how valuable, then, how
gorgeous this precious, tiny, whole, extraordinary, ordinary moment. 

So on a summer's day waves collect, overbalance, and fall; collect 
and fall; and the whole world seems to be saying 'that is all' more 
and more ponderously, until even the heart in the body which lies 
in the sun on the beach says too, That is all. Fear no more, says 
the heart. Fear no more, says the heart, committing its burden 
to some sea, which sighs collectively for all sorrows and renews, 
begins, collects, lets fall. And the body alone listens to the passing 
bee; the wave breaking; the dog barking, far away barking and barking.

*everything in italics is directly borrowed from Mrs. Dalloway

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