Thursday, June 7, 2007

love's lost fear

You listened to his recordings the other day, the voice of an old man hammering out his thoughts, working them as though they were a piece of iron between hammer and anvil. His voice, cracked with age, his breath laboured, he was a tireless warrior pushing ahead into the great unknown. The greatest explorer you ever knew.

“March eleventh, nineteen ninety-one,” came the voice at the beginning of the tape. “Some quick thoughts on this final voyage, and an idea for some lines of verse. Ah, I don’t know. As usual, whatever comes.”

You could hear the sounds of outside. A soft breeze pushing gently into the tape recorder’s mic, the songs of birds, and the tinkling of some far-off wind chime.

“I feel like this is it, like I’m starting on some kind of little journey between journeys. Does that make sense? Almost as though I’m through with one leg of the trip, and I’ve reached a point in the river that I can not paddle across.” He cleared his throat, and you could hear him taking a long drink of water. “We’re portaging the canoe now, my spirit guides and I, across this unnavigable stretch. It’s a lot of work, but we know that it is a necessary thing. We know that our work will be paid off in full.”

You met him in London back in 1988 at one of Baudrillard’s lectures at the ICA. Old even then, he still managed a rather arresting figure with his tweed suit and wild mass of white hair. Those mesmerising grey-blue eyes. He wedged himself into the seat beside you, and immediately turned to you, holding out his hand for an introduction. Names exchanged, he proceeded to ask, “So, why are you here?”

“Well, to listen to JB speak of course.”

“No, no,” he said, waving aside your feeble reply. “I mean, why are you here? Why are you here on this earth?”

You didn’t know. You still don’t, but since then, you put more effort into thinking about it.

His voice again, crackling on the tape.

“I awoke this morning with some lines running amok in my head. Something about the embodiment of Love, and Love’s cast-off coat. Something about embracing this next leg of the journey.”

Left alone with the breeze, the birds, and the chimes for moment, before his voice started up again:

“Stepping softly past Love’s lost fear,
another time, just one more year.
While at the point when we must cross
there won’t be shed a single tear.
No loss,
not here.”

He bumped the tape recorder at this point, and you could hear him scrambling to right the situation.

“Blasted thing,” he huffed.

More thumping and banging ensued before the machine was finally switched off.

You smiled. You smiled, thinking about the man at his forge, working those words. You smiled, thinking about his massive body of work. You smiled, thinking about him in his canoe with his spirit guides, paddling away down another stretch of lonely river.

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