Post brexit, pre-eviction, musings on death and Pasolini from Berlin.
On the day of the vote I had given up hope, so I went to feed the ducks. Ducks are hopeful creatures. They are happy with a little bread and I like the way they move. Ducks can fly, but when they come in to land, (on water), they seem like they are not quite sure how to do it properly. I have never seen a duck actually crash land but it always looks like a possibility. Watching ducks landing on water is one of the finest pleasures in life, regardless of the day. On those days when every hopeful failure and optimistic ruin lays revealed at its end, then it may be considered an excellent day to go and feed the ducks.
It was almost too warm.
Although I am describing this in the past tense, I can see the sun now and I can even feel a little of its heat. It was almost too warm. I walked down the road singing “lalalalalalala” to myself, because there is always a song in you somewhere and if you can find it, it is probably best to let it take over until you get to the ducks. Especially on those days when it seems most important to go and feed the ducks. Keep it simple stupid. LALALALALAALALALALALALALAL.
Eventually, after a quick trip to the bakers …you might find yourself at the duck pond and it MIGHT BE sunny. The ducks MIGHT BE pleased to see that you have brought some bread with you. Everything might be looking pretty good. Especially for the ducks. LALALALALA
Feeding ducks is quite a responsibilty. You can’t just throw bread into the water and hope everything will be fine. There may be a mixture of birds to consider, because the sky has no borders and ducks have personality too. It is best to observe each bird and its individual characteristics and then proceed accordingly. At this particular pond, there were finches around my feet and although they were indulging in a few little twittering spats and flurries of pretend fighting, it didn’t seem to be too serious. I threw a handful of stray crumbs to them, a far lob of a larger crust to draw the aggressive ducks away, two more chunks to the teenage coots, and then an even and fair distribution of the remaining bread among the more passive ducks.
When the bread rolls were finished it was quiet a relief in a way. For me that is. The ducks just wanted some more bread.
I know you aren’t really supposed to give bread to ducks …I know they are supposed to eat worms or something …but can we just let it go this time?
I thought about what I would like to happen in the future but I didn’t really believe it would happen enough for it to bother me too much if it didn’t happen. There was nothing more to be done. I just thought “Oh well” and then I went and sat under a willow tree and ate a cake. I bought the cake in the same shop where I got the bread rolls.
There was a hill rising from the far side of the pond. It was only a little hill but it was quite pretty. It was covered in trees and it was being as green as it could be. The hill hadn’t always been so nice. Once, it had been a big lump with a gun on it that had been used for shooting down aircraft. In the end some of the people trying to shoot down aircraft had only been twelve years old because all of the adults were dead or busy. Imagine that …twelve year old children trying to shoot down real aircraft with a big gun? In the end, the gun stopped firing because all of the children were dead or terrified and then the mothers collected all of the bricks from the ruined city and piled them on top of the gun so it would forget how to fire. Nature took care of the rest. Now it was just trees and bushes and singing birds. Who could say that it wasn’t an improvement?
I finished eating my cake and then I got a book out of my bag. It was quite cool and shady under the trailing branches of the willow. I really tried to enjoy sitting under the tree, by sitting under it and not thinking about anything else.
I read the book that I had bought for a lover who did not love me.
The book was written by an Italian poet who had been beaten with sticks and deliberately run over with a car until he died.
Isn’t that a funny thing to do to a poet? Or to anyone for that matter.
Anyway, he was dead, but I could still hear him.
“It is better to love than to have loved.”
And here’s me writing in the past tense. I’m gonna change my tense.
Stay with me.
I am sitting underneath the willow tree reading the poems of Pier Paolo Pasolini and they are speaking to me with meaning. He is weaving his world around mine until I can see what he sees and hear the sounds he hears. He says things so beautifully that we do not even fear the things we should. We are not afraid to die. I am very happy about that because, of the two of us, it is probably more difficult for me to be unafraid of death. I am reading a little bit of poetry to the ducks but they do not give a fuck about poetry as far as I can tell.
They want a bit more bread.
I like them for that and I like poetry too. I do not know if that means I am luckier than a duck or not. Maybe we are all lucky. Me, and the poet, and the ducks, and all of the other people sitting round on the grass in the sunshine.
I just read this back to myself and it made me shed a tear. I don’t know why, because it isn’t even happening, but I am writing about something I love, so that is ok. I loved it but I still love it. Love can be hard sometimes, especially when what you love is only a memory. That is sometimes called nostalgia. A word that comes from the Greek words. “Nostos” …which means return home and “Algos” which means pain.
The pain that comes from yearning for home.
As though the past is ever your home.
Don’t look back.
Remember what happened to Orpheus.
Recently I have been feeling pain.
Sometimes I worry that my liver is failing and I cannot afford the cure. Sometimes I worry that my liver will not fail. Not now though …because I am feeding the ducks and reading poetry, and me and Pasolini are laughing about death and the stupid ways it falls on us. Like ducks landing on water. Like planes falling from the sky. Like bricks piled over the shouting gun and dead children in the uniforms of men. Like a stupid rain of sticks. It does not matter. Not to us. Not today.
Sometimes it becomes very necessary to concentrate on the things that immediately surround you. Hopefully it is cake, or ducks, or the fact that nobody is hitting you with sticks.
Eventually, I say goodbye to the ducks, and Pasolini. I bid farewell to the willow tree and the quiet ghosts of the children on the hill that used to be a gun and I walk through the city until I get to my home. In a way, the entire city is my home. Maybe the whole world sometimes. At least as much as anywhere. When I get back to my apartment and shut that door behind me, I feel at home for a moment. Sometimes I feel most at home when I have no door to shut. Although this might seem confusing, it is important to find peace in limbo. The hanged man does not improve his condition by struggling against a bondage where the only escape is to submit and have faith. At least for a while anyway. There is a great freedom in being so chained to the idea of something that choice becomes irrelevant. Of course, submission can be a choice too. Sometimes it is easy to choose.
It is one hundred years since my great grandfather took a bullet in the battle of the Somme. There is a picture of him close to the door in my home. I look at it every day. I never met him, but in a way I feel I know him. In this particular photograph my great grandfather is wearing an army uniform and there is an indescribable sadness in his eyes.
He was an amateur homeopath and I have a small book on homeopathy that he carried during his four years in the trenches of the first world war. I imagine him, by candlelight, in a quiet moment, thumbing the pages hopefully, trying to find the faint essence of flowers that might still the hatred in humanity and wondering if anything, one atom from water, might ever the stop the screaming as well as opium.
I have a terrible feeling of foreboding and I pine for my idea of home even as the idea of it slips away. I am wishing that my old home will let me leave and live in peace away from it. I am wishing it will let me stay. I am yearning for a place that never was, and for an understanding that might never exist, in a place that was once two places, in a city that was partly in another country. I am in limbo. I am at the crossroads. I am between the earth and the sky and my frail roots are tearing.
Soon I will be nowhere and then I shall know where I am.
We are not afraid of each other, the ghosts of the little wolf children and I, between the worlds as we are. They know somehow, that finally I am wholly lost in the memory of love and when the last betrayal is wrought and I am condemned as a traitor for it, I will be utterly free of it.
We understand each other in a different language.
I decide that everything will be ok even though deep down I know it is not true.
I lie to myself and kid myself through, because there is nothing more to be done and that is the way we must continue.
I go out and watch a concert I cannot hear, because music hurts my ears. I am sitting in a bar and I am not drinking, but I listen to nervous people brave with alcohol.
They talk about things and I understand that they do not understand, which grieves me, although I do not become sad. I do not know what day it is. I have a conversation with someone. He says “You have to respect your grandparents.” I say “It depends.” Although I too crave simple answers and solid truth, but not enough to believe in them.
I leave the crowd alone and wake up to sunshine, filtered through the bedroom curtains. In the brief moments between dreams and the day, I am hopeful for nothing in particular and untroubled by the problems of the world.
I have forgotten yesterday and I do not think of the future.
This innocence does not last for long.
The first thing I read, is news I do not want to believe although I know it is true.
I have an appointment on this day. I must take my place around the fire and listen to the world. I wonder whether the world will have anything nice to say to me. I go and buy coffee and I cannot look anybody in the eye. I am ashamed even though I have done nothing wrong. Not this time anyway.
Something beautiful happened. I made the coffee I had been ashamed to buy and I was smoking a cigarette with the windows open into the square courtyard in the middle of the apartment block where I lived.
Somebody on the opposite side of the building played “only the lonely” by Roy Orbison, and the sound of the song echoed and was amplified by the walls. As a little gesture of solidarity, I played the same song, loudly enough so the other person could hear me playing it and maybe not feel so alone. When my version of Only the lonely had finished …I listened and I heard another song being played. It was “You’ll never walk alone”. And this is how distant points may still communicate in ways that are beautiful. I will probably never know who played those songs. It doesn’t really matter.
Of all the things you hold, perhaps your hope is most precious.
Be careful where you put it.
Here is my begging bowl if you want to buy me a cake.