Tuesday 30 May 2023

White Chalk

It's coming up for three years since I returned to these Blighted Isles from Vietnam, and those memories not tied to the faces of those I love start to fade. I speak specifically of dense forest clinging to steep hills, coracles bobbing up and down on the East Sea, heavy hot rain exploding from black skies... all these things, once so visceral, have transformed into something Other. They turn into words and pictures and reproductions... facsimiles—or memories of memories, like an anecdote related by someone else.

Instead I am here, again, well-and-truly embedded in the land of my birth: hollow man without a landscape of his own, brittle bones without marrow, bemoaning this self-imposed fate. Happy, of course, in the warm embrace of the family I love, but when alone I feel afraid. I'm afraid of death and loneliness in a manner that is quite alien, and so seek to confront it in new landscapes. 

I swim in cold seas and swallow saline tides, letting my white body wash across sharp shingle shores... and shiver.    

Up hills I run, until I can look out across cities... or else, uppercut Orion.

Through forests of dead trees—dutched elms and died-back ash—I pant, scrabbling on all fours pursued by ghosts of a forgotten age, terrified but exhilarated 

...and I think of a girl, because I'm unoriginal like that.

Above image: forensic reconstruction of the 5600 year-old remains of a Neolithic woman