World, self and change

THE NATURE OF CHANGE is elusive in the heightening of perspective with age. He looks at himself in his surroundings as he sees other days. Self and place undergo, silencing denial, but he cannot say ‘the change is here’ and point with any truthfulness. He wants to deny to see his denial silenced. Always something has ended and something is about to begin. A change in the sight, a change in perception, a change in the perceiving eye: all at the edge of an altera’s being: the flickering life of which he is partly aware, in the dead of night, the small hour when sleep is personal, the perception of a turning, of time, of a face, of a mind’s volition. Change, beyond the skyline: sense alters: the small and felt in the hand, owned, perhaps, close in the night, the senses stilled, in the stillness of the room, for a little while: the look from the window, and what was small in the hand is clear on the horizon, under the first beginnings of dayspring. Change upon the orders of change: I think a line and, beyond, I am no more myself. The falling of evening not the fall of another day’s evening. Only one evening, remembered, perhaps, to nature. She feels by memory below the level of the senses: no-one sees more than the smallest part of what she does. The nightly eclipse. The yearly turn. The changing seasons of a life, under a sky of tides, in the undergoing, inexactly known.

A hospital in a mill-town on the side of the moors. It was a long walk from the station, up hill all the way, guided by the lit windows of the mills, a dim expanse of diffuse light in the November fog. The laboratory was in one of the original workhouse buildings; it had been known as the insane wing; it was built round a courtyard; a dark red-black brick place with sandstone cornerblocks and window embrasures. Each floor was laid out along a high corridor, from which small rooms gave off by small arched doorways, prison-like, the atmosphere unaccountable and lost. The room he was given was a cold cube twelve feet in each dimension, with a low arched window, once barred inside the glass.

The laboratory was empty in the evening. He returned with a borrowed key at about nine o’clock to continue writing. He climbed the stair and walked the long first-floor corridor, paused outside the room, found the key heavy on the unfamiliar ring, paused, in the feeling of the place, blind, mute, wordless, no sound, the perspective of the corridor empty, sightless, the void of the stair-well, from the plain newel dropping to the floor below, so sudden the loss of the boundaries of oneself, the person one is no longer a centre or the point of a perspective, no fear to this, it is what will happen at death, the apprehension of mortality: there is no sense of loss. The moon to the touch of the child’s hand. How might the thick mortared wall hold the feeling of a time which had dropped away as though it had no meaning? With ease. The edge no more than a self’s pace distant: less: meaning never to be grasped. The moon to the touch of the child’s hand. The senses move differently, bring to no lone sequestered mind their apprehensions, distinct, a fleeting pause, something standing beneath the division of the senses, of nothing familiar to him, no name to it, a coruscation of the moonlight at the passage’s distant end, on the membrane of the ear. The moon to the touch of the child’s hand. The violin keeps its tuning, tense the feel of the belly and the back, resonant from the velvet as a vast hall, brush of deep gold pile on varnish, the bow to string, in the ill and many-reflected light, notes not heard before, a folk-song, say, oh, you wouldn’t know its provenance, no-one would know that, said to be, someone in the past there would have been, to name it, remote in time, someone once alive who might know its origin, the ear that listens remote, some distant part, of this one same mind, who would know the provenance that pacified the air, amongst the presences, which filled the space, in the space in which it was being played, the sense that all the past was in the present once concealed and now overt to every sense, the person and the place are one.




David Wheldon, Oldham, November 1994


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