PARNELL _ON PAGE OF ITS OWN_

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					2. Parnell
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                         ONE: THE GIRL OF THE MOON



Many years in the future, when he was lamenting the loss of his eighth truly

significant woman, he fell to writing again. Her name was Marja, Finnish Marja,

pronounced Marr-ya, with a rolled second r and an inflected “i” before the “y”. No

one could say it properly, so all his friends called her Maria, and she answered their

insufficiency. Finnish Marja would smile as she was addressed as English Maria.

The eighth woman. All his life there had been a girl of the moon, someone to cry

over in the high night of her increasing absences; then there would be an elegant older

woman, who would drive her own sports car, and be good to him in bed, and who

would want him totally; then there could be a wife of capacious gifts, an academic of

great strength, who would eventually leave him. Then the cycle would be repeated -

and he had gone through two complete cycles now, calling out the names of the moon

girls in his married sleep, and with the advent of the third cycle there came certainly

the sports car-driving woman, an aristocrat this time, and a moon girl of such

astonishing beauty he prayed with all his heart that the cycles would stop and she, at

last, would be the moon girl made wife, the eighth and last of the traumatic pageant of

beauty. And anyway, for him, 8 was a holy number, written without beginning or end

as two seamless circles that fed each other. Feed me Marja, he would whisper,

pronunciation correct, under the moons of a long and only briefly answered year.



When he was a child, just learning memory, the moon meant something entirely

different. Instead of pretty pretty moon, the repetitive coo of New Zealand mothers,

he got pretty light light, since he was, he remembered he was told, Chinese. And he

was called Happy Occasion at a Grand Court. Since, later, he learned that his father‟s
                                                                                         4


name meant The Red Emperor, he was happy enough to be an occasion of any sort in

his palace of dreams. There was a palace of dreams in Parnell, Auckland, on a hill

that overlooked the harbour cranes, and his combined first memory was of poverty.

Then his father would carry him out of the poverty-ridden shop, into the life of the

sky, and they would watch richer sunsets than he ever saw again, and the cranes would

burn, and the moon like an impossible goddess would rise from her land of snow and

seep into the heavens till it filled his sky. Poverty, sunset, sky, this was the Parnell of

his soul.



There was a Parnell of his heart, and this was green. Green, because behind the shop,

beyond a crescent that sloped away, a great domain of trees had jumped to giant life -

taller, grown faster than in England - and these acres were called, presciently, the

Domain. In the middle of the Domain, on a hill he would clearly see, there was a

huge white museum, and it was called - simply, rather than presciently this time,

since it looked like a Roman temple, and later he imagined it was a Roman temple -

the Museum; and his father said all the past is contained in the Museum, and that was

why, he thought, birds sang in the green Domain, to honour the past in the white

Museum.



But the green was in his heart because that was where his parents taught him love and

laughter - even though they were poor and the world they had escaped grew older than

belief. They taught him all the polite paths through the green - what they themselves

were learning. Later, as a young man, he taught himself the hidden trails among the

great trees, skipping over the heart-felt roots of heaven every night, as he cried tear-

blind for the first moon girl of his canopy-obscuring life.
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There was a Parnell of the body, and the body‟s early mind, and this was brown;

brown because of the two brown panels that faced his cardigan as he grew, and among

the first things that he knew was how much had been left behind, and how existence

was a loss that could never be reclaimed. Living was to build a bridge over the chasm

of perpetual loss, and the stronger you built the bridge the deeper you dug the chasm.



Among the second things that he knew was that they were better off than other people

who were browner. Each bright morning a Maori boy would pass the shop and his

father would sell him, discounted, bruised fruit. Down the road there was another

shop, and it was smaller, dingier, somehow irremediably poorer, and the couple who

eked out their precarious margins in that compressed space were Indians.



But what he loved as he learnt to know was the clatter of the passing trams, how trams

had to stop if their magic masts disconnected from the wires overhead. There would

be a blue flash sometimes as mast disconnected but then, in the laws of exact chances,

laws that govern how you jump precisely, it would bounce back to its energy-feeding

connection. The blue flash was the immutable law of life. Sometimes you had to, for

no reason but having to, make a jump - and all freedom that the world allowed was

contained in that blue flash, and then you were anchored again, and that was that, and

being anchored was brown, but the blue was a momentary transfiguration of all the

child‟s prayers he said, from his shop front, to the universal non-refugee sky.



                                     ********
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For what reasons are moon girls sent to the earth and cross that bridge of light? For

years he has asked that question. They are sent to discipline the wants of youth, and

the remembered wants of youth. They are sent to accept as gifts the completed heart‟s

of chosen men - for these men cannot choose, and their bodies learn to live with space

in place of heart, and the space is called want, and want pulses to the timetable of the

moon, and the timetable is the strictest tempo in the world of months and tides and

wolves and hearts. And because want cannot replace the hearts own full beat, the

body loves the moon girl as it slowly dies.



Ah, from time to time, the men rebel. Gilgamesh, the great Sumerian king, four

thousand years ago, drunkenly refused his fate. One desperate night, at the full-moon

feast, he tore a leg from the sacrificial ox and tossed the charred and broken rump into

the heavens with all the strength of sun-born kings. Ishtar, the goddess of the moon,

thought it poor substitute for Gilgamesh‟s heart, and took away the single chance the

king might have for everlasting life. Atop his bold ziggurat, Gilgamesh accepted that

his life was costed out, and hearts were the only fare for the beautiful carnivores of

love.



                                    ********



His grandmother told him stories of ancient heroes. One, with full beard, almost like

a barbarian‟s, had also only one leg. He swung a fine sword meticulously balanced.

But when he wanted to deliver a high side kick, a supporting leg would instantly grow

and anchor hero to the earth. A man entire only when he kicked, and only past a

certain height. There was a moral somewhere in that, perhaps; but he hoarded the
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fairytales and learnt how, in sunset‟s blaze, the long-haired sword-armed messengers

of justice would sometimes translate themselves into the high birds of the sky. And

stories were the only hoard of gold in the poverty in which he grew.



Poverty was brown. The electric light that shone on it was brown. The room in which

he slept with his parents had no windows and he never recalled the dust being swept

nor sunlight‟s shaft on dust dancing in the dawns.



His father sought to turn this lack into an advantage of sorts. For an hour each day,

between work‟s end and the child‟s time for sleep, he laid out the trays and second-

hand equipment of a photographic darkroom. This moonlighting he called Happy

Snaps, but most of the happy snaps he took were of the growing, smiling child - a

child with hair that sprouted thick and long, and over whom strangers would make

prophecies - few commissions came the father‟s way and the child reasoned early that

the camera was not for business but his parent‟s one escape. The child hoarded

stories, the father images of his life - appropriated for a golden dust-free future, when

the past was both a record and something he could richly mock. The aspiration was

great: to have a light-meter you must first have light, and the room should not be

coloured like sleep before you even kissed the pillow and closed your eyes.



Closed your eyes, then made a moon in your mind to illuminate the brown, reciting to

yourself a favourite child‟s poem of the moon bright he had learnt from his mother.

One day, when he learnt the rigours of speech, he thought, he would say this poem -

not mother, nor father, but moon bright, after that the word for want.
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                                     ********



From the grandparents‟ room came each night a certain whine, a mechanically

arbitrated whine that nevertheless suggested a higher, more courtly, more educated

Cantonese than that with which he was addressed. Ah then, he thought, a hierarchy in

language. It was a tape recorder, clumsily unwinding reel-to-reel a ritual opera with

timed intonations, drum beats and cymbals clashing. In bed, the moon switched on, a

brown music nevertheless intervened against that slippage to unconsciousness, and his

dream of the moon and what was signalled by the acne on the moon‟s full face.



The evening‟s progression would be from dinner, all seated on wooden crates,

Chinese newspapers spread as table cloth, the table itself prefabricated from banana

crates that were taller than the orange crates that served for chairs. A cat sat on one

corner of the table, unable to eat except as a full person; chicken, blood pudding, fish

would be served - particles of each to the cat as well. Afterwards, debris would be

rolled up in the newspapers, and the apparatus of dining dismantled like magic.

Magic is a rehearsed routine, he thought. Then bed, then moon, then the brown

music.



And the music would always be of love, love lost or love divided, death or near death,

reclamation of love on earth or in heaven. The division of love, more specifically of

lovers, would be accomplished in a court populated by corrupt magistrates,

inquisitorial lawyers, and parents anxious to divide the anguished pair.           A last

hopeless cling, and they would be ripped asunder, the girl to be imprisoned in her

parents‟ house, the boy to be sent off, a single cloth bag over his shoulder, to a distant
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university. Years later, for the most part, he would return - perhaps on a white horse -

to find her grave stone, marked by the incense of her broken heart.



What the child marvelled at was how love could be subjected to inquisition. Grown,

bearded men in the hats, stiffened belts and regalia of judges and lawyers would

denounce, in those days, something merely aspirational, virginal, and flowering for a

first and only time.



Although all the operas had the same theme, he had a favourite - an aria in which the

high notes were deliberately cracked, a duet between two men, the pale, love-lorn

scholar praying for God‟s miracle - „if the peach blossoms open‟ - and his

encouraging companion clasping his shoulders and singing sturdily, „of course God

will let the preach blossoms open‟, but it is the middle of winter, under a stark moon,

and the merciless magistrates of love had smirkingly delivered a judgement that the

pale scholar and his beautiful love could marry if only, and only that winter‟s night,

peach blossoms would open. In his child‟s dream, the sturdy friend would rush in at

dawn, shake the hunched, slumbering shoulders of his friend, and point hard, like a

communist poster, to a very great tree in ecstatic bloom. Only the child could see,

flying up a sky-beam, the angel of God resheathing, as he grew smaller, the pure

sword of winter flowers.



This image of the angel, hair flowing, tiny in the distance, tiny against the immensity

of the sky, infiltrated his later dreams. But, before then, the angel would fade out and

a close-up of a peach blossom fade in and, in dreams alone, the forces of evil would

be defeated. In dreams, music was not brown.
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                                     ********



He knew when moon girls came. Friends always said he was old enough to know

better and, indeed, each time he was older and knew even better what was happening

to him, and what was happening was that pure, aspirational flowering of the heart for

an impossible, peach-fed love, as pure as the very first flowering of countless

incarnations ago. One day, some life, he would marry all the moon girls but, by the

time of Marja, he thought he had already once married her, them lost her tragically in

the laws of the past, and this was the rediscovery, if never the reclamation, in the

heaven of a millennium‟s end and the weariness-defeated start of all possibilities.



He never wavered. When a moon girl appeared he fell in love instantly.



                                     ********



His father was strong. Years later, when the doctors diagnosed terminal cancer, he

remembered - and the memory was of sinuous elegance, like Roberto Baggio playing

football in the World Cup of the sky. Feet placed astride litter, the father would lift,

turn at the waist, and stack shoulder-height rows of fruit-filled crates. Particularly the

long banana crates, he recalled. It was the way he turned the waist. Even when the

father had grown prosperous and fat, the shoulders, forearms and calves - lift, grip,

and propulsion - were still evident; but he remembered only the waist. He had never

seen his father naked, but he must have had abdominal muscles like the ridged

washboards his mother used.
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When they afforded a second-hand washing machine, he would sit for hours, or what

seemed hours, watching the clothes fed into the wringer and emerge in an endless

variety of flatness - mother‟s sleeves rolled up. Father‟s sleeves rolled up as he stirred

with a long stick carrots in a huge vat of water, to take enough dirt off them for sale.

Father‟s fingers as they peeled the outer layers of onions, mother‟s tears, so that the

onion displays would not be ruined by flaking skin, onions as smooth as apples.

There would be a whole room full of the detritus of onions, lined along the wall, all

the way up, with father‟s stacked crates. He‟d once run face first into them in a

childish panic, or enthusiasm. Learning to swerve would come later. Learning to turn

the waist, adjust the feet, put out a palm to halt the forward rush. By the time he

realised he would never have the chiselled features of the Roman epics, the Tarzan

films, the Steve Reeves films, the Batman comics - that he was flatter than Hollywood

allowed - he put it down to that childhood impact, face into father‟s strong-built

stacks.
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                               TWO: THE FLOWERS



When he was three, the story goes, when he was free, his memory of the story went,

sixteen years before his hair grew over his shoulders and was bleached a rusted red by

the sun, which nevertheless conspired to look a glossy black by night, almost blue-

black in dreams, he was taken to a graveyard, a memorial visit to his mother‟s mother,

a sickly girl who, because sickly, could be married off only to the much older foreign-

stained gold-miner returned from a land that was called, by the savages who lived in

it, Heavens Cloud, and his hair was already white and she barely fourteen but even

with his shovel and pistol-callused hands, he was gentle and had fallen in love with

her on sight and called her Mirrored Moon, as if he had stared at her in a still stream

whenever Heaven‟s Cloud had opened for his soft moment, rationed moment amidst

savages and thugs, but the savages had been gentle to him, knowing from a distance

why and how he longed whenever the moon was mirrored, and she thought at first

marriage to someone so much older and who had become a stranger to his own land,

his own people, must be punishment for sickliness, but his eyes were kind and she,

impoverished at fourteen, had nowhere else to go, and when she fled to New Zealand

years later to escape the arms of war, she brought up her three children in an iron-

sheet shed, and then she died, and one of her daughters, the one who had stolen

lychees and laughed in White Stone, was first taken as a ward and then sent in

arranged marriage to an eighteen year-old boy with long muscles and a single pin-

striped suit with Oxford bags, a floral tie and long hair that was Brylcreem-shaped

into that Clark Gable look that eluded all efforts by nature and, after they had a son,

conceived in the brown room with no light, the family came to her grave, and the son
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danced on the marble slabs and placed flowers for the grandmother he had never

known and, of whom, one photograph existed and she was seated and a sheet of

painted books was stretched behind her.



                                     ********



And, as the sun shone fitfully through Heavens‟ Cloud, and the boy danced from

grave to grave, singing some nonsense to himself, the others began the memorial

picnic, offering first the roasted meats to his grandmother, and then looked around for

the first-born son in his brown beret, and almost rushed to stop him, but withdrew to

watch, as he had found a grave unloved by flowers, unvisited by picknicking loved-

ones, and the son was walking a circumference he had plotted in that mind of children

who know circles, and he was, like the socialist commissar of the graves, collecting a

single flower from each grave and, a sufficient bouquet collected by circle‟s end,

brought them to the grave-unloved and placed them in the headstone‟s vase with such

a studied tenderness that all the prophecies that had been intoned at his birth sprang to

the parents‟ minds, the child of flowers who would limp in a muddied world of black

people and wave a centuries-old sword of fire beneath the moon and the black soil of

heaven‟s garden of stars.



And had sought, before he was theirs, to wear sky in his hair, and had been returned, a

refugee‟s son, to relearn the limits of life and of grace, and to give up his heart to the

creatures of heaven.
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               THREE: THE SHOP AT THE END OF THE WORLD



Because he was proud and had grown weary of the slights of his parents, particularly

his dragon mother and, anyway, the bands of stomach muscles could not constrict the

black hand, and the timetable of the hand gave him ambition, because the timetable

might be short and he had to hurry and he wanted to look back on this time of life

with contempt, and because he had fallen in love with Meil Wah, he was indignant

with himself that he could not prevent his wife from being subjected to the indignities,

commands and deprivations his dragon mother had first dealt out to him.



But there was nothing he could do. They were poor. They lived in the shop with his

parents. His wife had come without dowry and she redeemed this lack by accepting

the home and the hegemony of the dragon. And if, in the stories, most dragons were

the benign angels of God, messengers of glad tidings and playful in the heavens like

dolphins, this mother-in-law she thought was the unlovely rogue of the skies who had

been beached in the tree-fringed backwater of Parnell, and had the temper and scorn

of an excluded creature, but her China of old, of warlords and slaves, was changing

even then. The sickly mother of Meil Wah had died and her father with the heart of

adventure before her and Meil Wah had accepted, because there was no choice, the

marriage brokered around her, and the husband-to-be, she thought, could be loved, or

something comfortable that usually grew in the wake of love might grow, even if love

never did; but the in-laws were the hefty conditionals of the protocol she was

imagining. That was in 1948, and in 1949 the Red Star Brigades swept China, and it

seemed like marriage in Parnell forever, in the shop at the end of the world and, in
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that tumultuous year, born under that star of tumult, came the son bruised black from

her two days of labour, the long slippery savage of her womb, and his hair was long at

birth, and she loved him like a sole gift.



He was put, first in a pram, then a pushchair, tethered to a pillar near the double doors

of the shop and, as his parents worked, he would silently, never crying, examine the

world of trams, children in uniform returning from school, and an unfinished cathedral

that shared, with the shop, the apex of a hill, and the sun set like a ball of fire at the

horizon that stretched flat from the foot of the hill.



                                      ********



Tethered, he became the centre of attention, and a loving conspiracy. His first motor

actions were to learn to shell the small and tender peas, since he was always parked by

the bin of peas, eat the peas, replace the empty husks. For weeks, the customers

happily bought the husks of peas and only when a stranger complained did the

regulars laughingly confess that they had watched delighted at the child‟s delicate skill

and sought no end to the opera of his fingers.



But the grandfather, in order to chasten the child, would wait till night, when the

family had eaten, and creep outside, and his hand would appear in the window

shaking keys and intoning wrath, and the grandmother would say, „key key soll will

come and get you‟, soll being the Chinese word for key, so the monster outside the

window was clearly a hybrid, and he cared not for the efforts of grandfather hand, ate

peas from time to time, and listened to his heart beat late at night to avoid the whine
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of love-lorn music, like his father husbanded the insults borne by his mother, and,

although he sat on the grandmothers‟ lap and heard the tales of heroes, waited for

night when the heart beat like the heavy march of his army.



                                     ********



Tethered, he watched children return from school. He watched his father work. And

life was a shuttle before his eyes and shuttle behind and beside him, and he knew his

father hoarded his meagre wages for a shop of his own and he knew the shuttle would

be more frenetic, even more urgent then, and pride and richness would make the

father love his shop as he already loved his dream of it. And the child thought of

schooling and of the white tower; he wanted to own the tower so that, somehow, he

would learn its secret; and he measured out the days of school until in his mind he

reached the tower; and he knew, one day, though sick and wrapped in a shadow, his

father would insist upon entering his shop, for the last day at the last shop, and serving

a magically-coloured stone to a customer, would turn from the green emeralds and

look at the sapphire dome of the sky.
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                            FOUR: THE WHITE HORSE



Years later, in the last days of illness, the Patient Heart sent again the white horse. He

did it like this: sitting in meditation posture, facing his garden through the french

doors, facing an English summer that was as yet still green and the roses climbed, and

the ash trees rose over all. The walled garden of the English dream, although he‟d

been trying to sell this dream for a year, ever since his wife, Penny, had left and the

moon girl, Marja, had spent too little time with him there. Yet, exactly there, where

the sun came through the french doors, entered from the garden exactly framed, he

had made love many times to Marja, and she did not fly off to the moon, and he felt

very briefly a normal scholar amidst his books and paintings, and the outside world

was ordered though luxuriant, and the outside world met the inside world in a shaft of

sunlight on the carpet where the girl of his dreams lay for him and the high birds

watched.



Now he knelt there, loosening his knees for the lotus to come, regularising and sinking

his breath. And in the weeks just past it had snowed on him in Johannesburg and he

had shivered sleeplessly on the high veld nights, it had shone reliably on him in

Durban, and it had rained reliably on him in Cape Town, and by day he had been the

designer-suited lecturer of authority - cited by many South African PhDs - and by

night he had been the white-suited karate master, the long-haired magazine cover

made flesh. The effort of switching identities smoothly made him stand up one

winter‟s day in Johannesburg, then faint, and when he came to he was soaked in the

coldest sweat he could remember, having fallen well even though unconscious. Now

he was sinking his breath, he had completed some hundreds of push-ups and sit-ups
                                                                                       18


for the sake of his father‟s sight of him, and had tied the hair in the glossy tail of the

dream heroes, and he was naked facing his summer-lit garden, and on the other side of

the world it was night and a life was coming to its end, and he had read how hard it is

for souls to escape the body‟s fitful ways of dying. Those shot in war, as he had seen,

had an easier time of it than those in the last bed of their lives. So he was preparing

now, the soul-master who had jumped several lessons in the lexicon on meditation,

out of grief, love, and because he knew he could do it, the crippled soul-master of the

Kentish walled garden, to escort his father across the bridge of life and to say

farewells to him on the edge of the honey-rich plain where, as his father‟s father had

said before him on his own death-bed, the souls of the dead begin their journies to

heaven where they are embalmed in the new bodies of their next lives. And the

Patient Heart, a.k.a. the White Warrior, knelt somewhere in summer Kent and some

part of that well-trained heart of his was bitter like unsmoothed gravel and yet he had,

in order to do what he proposed to do, to take out the heart‟s rake and soothe the

gravel into the tall roses and the green chamber of a garden like the one that faced

him, to make heart and garden one, so his soul could fly in the summer blue and cross

the bridge of the world and take his father‟s hand on that walk across the bridge of

life, and the neighbours heard the first great sigh breathe out from the garden since a

beautiful Finnish girl had lain briefly there, but this sigh, measuring itself away from

bitterness, was of the resignation a warrior feels when he stands amidst the last

hundred of his fallen companions and wraps some dreamt-of Roman commander in

his final red and red-stained cloak.



                                       ********
                                                                                      19


Because when he had left for his five week tour of southern Africa his father had

sounded strong - for the brief sentences he voiced on the telephone - but when he

returned the voice was pathetically weak and limited to a lone sentence, and even his

mother, topping and tailing the father‟s words as usual, no longer concealed the

gravity of his sudden decline. And the son knew even before he phoned since, on his

return, he found the plaque his father had given him fallen, face down on the floor

and, the next day, visiting his office, every one of his paintings hung limply on the

walls with broken cords. And, he said to himself, he may have been misreading the

signs of late, for a full year in fact when it came to the Finnish girl, but there was no

doubt someone was sending him signs, and their range of reading was, he thought,

sucking in breath, bitterly narrow and he exhaled the taste of it in a bubble over the

grubby complex of the LSE and it pulsated like a child‟s blown bubble, a child‟s

breath, over the thunder of Aldwych and Holborn, and became one with the exhaust of

one thousand slow-moving summer cars.




                                     ********



And this was how he did it on that Saturday afternoon before his garden, having

composed himself and entered himself and summoned the White Warrior and made

him pristine and sent him off around the world. It was hard to reach the other side, it

was hard to reach the father, harder still to enter him, and he could not construct the

necessary narrative, and in Kent his injured knees were hurting and when he finally

entered the father, he could only play three images and he played them over and over
                                                                                      20


and they intercut and he thought these were the last strobe-light visions of his father,

the living linking parts were being excised.



1.     He saw the White Warrior face to face with his father. The father‟s back was

to his camera and the shot was framed from the upper back rising, and the father had

in his soul not lost weight and was the hearty father of his memory and the Warrior

was looking into that part where his father‟s eyes would have faced him and they

could not yet have been death eyes for the Warrior was speaking to him with his eyes

and the two men would bring their right forearms together over and over and, in Kent,

he was thinking „this is the edge of the honey plain, but the Warrior cannot cross to

this side of the bridge,‟ but it was not the honey plain, merely its precursor as the

dying soul imagines where it is shortly to go.



2.     The camera has moved back now. We see more of the precursor plain. The

warrior son is bowing and sweeping his arm - strange, it is his useless left arm - in the

direction of an unseen bridge. Then the image cuts and plays again, then cuts again,

then the two men are in close-up once more reading words in each other‟s eyes and

making arms clash in that futile last gesture that says love has the strength of well

bodies. It is a muscular farewell, the poetry is what they say with their eyes and the

camera cannot record something so reserved.



3.     The son holds the reins of the white horse. When he strokes its nuzzle, reins

disappear. In the mouth of the last blue cavern of life‟s fountain they are standing.

There is an upwards curving hewn-stone bridge across a chasm in the stars and some

full moon is in the great heaven, and the bridge lead to a small land of stone and from
                                                                                   21


there the bridges lead across the outcrops of the honey plain until they come to the

well-lit sunlit plain itself. The image of the moon and the mouth of the last cavern

and the white horse plays over and over. In Kent, the Patient Heart embraces summer

air the shape of his father. In the long cloud-strewn islands of the south the father,

back still to the camera, faces the White Warrior who gestures towards the horse and

the white horse by the white moon walks slowly towards the bridge and if you walk

behind, no longer turning towards the Warrior who cannot cross with you, you can do

it smoothly and death will not rattle in your throat because air and soul have escaped

clean.
                                                                                    22


                                    ********



Back in Kent he comes to. He is shaking. He does not know if ever the white horse

can return to him, and how can a soul fight if it cannot ride? He makes tea and it

shakes in his hand and he is crying now and the sun is shining on the downs and the

five ports, and wind stirs the ash trees but no wind enters the walled garden, but it

makes him look up. On his wall, holding his wide belt of office, bearded, not thin at

all, is the Red Emperor, and he looks like his father and also like the Emperors in all

his grandmother‟s fairy tales and, as he watches, the Red Emperor slowly rises into

the sky and, looking down at him always, takes half an hour to disappear like a kite

released by the heart towards the sun.
                                                                                     23


                 FIVE: THE FLYING FOX AND THE MUD WORLD



There was a mud world. Wound sleepless in sheets, five years of age, the master of

speech and two words in English, and for five years to come, he had every night the

same dream.



There was a mud world, flat under grey skies, a land of neither blue nor green, but

brown, grey.



Irrigation canals kept the mud what it was destined always to be, mud; and if a man of

the living world, or even an angel of heaven stood upon the mud he would sink.



But there were people of the mud world who begged release from passers-by. If you

passed by, arms would plead and eyes would plead and mouths, encaked, would seek

to plead. There was no sound in the mud world.



This is how you passed by. Only in the repetition of dreams could you see a single

cable in the sky. It grew across with not a pylon of support. Half way between man

and angel you sped across the sky, both arms holding fast to the pulley of a flying fox.

If you lost your grip...



And you would, feet held forward, fly over acres and miles of the world of mud, and

you flew urgently for the storm of the world‟s end was massing out of your sight, far

from the horizon to which you sped, but you knew the storm for this was the dream of

destiny.
                                                                                       24




Even the people of the mud world did not want to die in the storm. You flew, the

silent roar of terrible lives seeking to live.



Suddenly the dream pitches you there. The flying fox has gone. For the brief moment

of futility you fly unaided. Against a grey tidal wave the size of a mountain you are

the dreamt silhouette that flies sword in hand against the last wave of time and you

are, forever, that man who came too late to save a single crab in his hopeless hole.

				
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