When going through the notebook, one often comes up against the self that wrote things one has no memory of writing. It happens because I tend to use one notebook for everything, including journal-writing, the ongoing prose thing (I will not say the N word) and poems. It works best for me that way. When one notebook fills up I buy another of a different colour.
Much of what I write in the notebook is not shared with anyone and there are good reasons for this. But I have recently felt the impulse to communicate something more about the reality of life with M.E., not so much on my own behalf (I already do this) but because I know people who have it in a more severe form. They live, you might say, in "another country."Very occasionally I touch its borders. The fact that I set this down is testament to the fact that I am, at time of writing, in a stronger state:
The slats again. I see the sky through those, and only if I have been awake enough to ask M to open them. In the daytime I don't like to be shut away in the dark. Sometimes I ring his mobile from the house phone, or I ring the house phone from my mobile, on days when he is working from home, downstairs or in the garden studio. I say, please can you open the slats for me? And if I know he is coming up I ask for a drink of mint tea. If I get up too quickly I feel faint, dizzy and sick. That is why M walks up two flights of stairs to open the slats so I can see the sky through them. Often there is just white, and raindrops on the window pane. My eyes are still hungry for the light.
If it is a bad day and I know I will be lying there for a long time, I ask him to lift the blinds completely. Then I can see the branches of a tree across the road, and I can see the tops of tall evergreens further away. The more I raise myself the more I see. But if I carry on lying down there is mostly just sky. That square of window has been witness to what no person has ever heard.
What is the sound that comes in the silence from someone who has looked out of the same window at the changing sky for many years? What is the sound of one hand clapping? It is nothing. It is nothing. It is the sound of time that moves past in clouds, in blue sky, in moon-bright or moonless, it moves through seconds and minutes and days and weeks and years. One time you looked at the sky with a child's warm head near you. Then the child was gone. Or you looked at the sky while hearing your daughter's voice as she talked on the telephone and you smelled the tobacco smoke from the cigarette she was smoking at the bottom of the house. Then the voice was gone.
I cannot begin to express how the outline of bare branches against the sky consoles and grounds me - joins me to the earth where I live so precariously. If someone were to come and cut down the tree it would leave me emptied into sky. All of us, those people who are like me, fear death. We fear it because it stalks our living, our lives. And the truth that has no strength to speak its name is that twent-five per cent of two hundred and fifty thousand of us lie each day in almost complete darkness, and no-one knows what to do for them. They are too sick to live, but still they live, and though some might choose to die - to have death pure and simple rather than life that is deathly - still many do choose to live the life they have, even so. They greatly desire life, and they love it and grasp the nettle of it.
Sometimes when we lie there looking at sky, or at the slats or curtains that keep the light from hurting (if we are not strong enough for sky) we feel connected to the earth, we feel her bones, her ravaged body, we put our mouths to the breast of the earth. Her milk is poisoned, her body violated, she is holding us to the best of her ability. Look how the black branch puts out shoots.
My road is an unadopted road, it is rough and uneven so not many cars pass by. People walk their dogs or parents come with children. These are the voices I might hear. I miss the cockerel. When I first came to this house, this room, a cockerel sounded each morning many times over: cock-a-de-doo! He annoyed the neighbours but never me. I loved him from a distance for his voice which came into my consciousness like the sound of someone beloved, I could sleep through it or when I was awake it put life into the morning. He has been gone for a long time.