I’m back in Paris on the first trip, the fear on the rattle trap plane, the closeness of the engines and I remember waiting in the dark in the alien lit streets by too many suitcases, while you looked. And we were lost and tired and couldn’t find the Rue. And we’d misread an ‘h’ for an ‘l’ and stumbled upon it later in our aching feet and disappointment. And the room was a box and the bathroom had no door and somehow on Easter Sunday we took our induction crisis on the metro and found a brand new place. The small round owner rolled out to the breakfast room, the polished stone stairs, the arched brickwork, our cellar under the city with warm incessant croissants and I see it now, in my morning under our son’s steady breath.
And the bateaus were confusing and we learned how to negotiate the traffic swarm, in those hours by la Gare when everything began with a le and we wandered around the boulevard trying to reach the other side. And it’s cropped up now for the first time, though it’s the third time around this date and it’s sneaked out at me, these ancient images and the biting chill and fusting heat. And I sit on the hard stone in Our Lady and wonder about the women who came to help and I couldn’t see her face although you did but I remember her deep patterned dress and her blessing to us as the taxi arrived.
And the hours ticked days until our venture up the tower and I can see the top with my parka inside out, the one I’d bought for Cornwall and we were worried but did it anyway. And somewhere there’s the photo, me-hair everywhere, lying backwards into the wind, its force taking my weight as I squeal in the gust, a flying squirrel, battered, smiling, in our beginnings, above our new selves looking out.
Bit adrift today, anchor up, no wind in sails and no sense of land, not that I can see.
Just float for a while, the weather will change soon.
Earl grey in my chipped ceramic warms my leg, sun’s trying to come up, I’m trying to get up. A sense of heading out into something but I’m not quite packed and the condensation on my compass makes it difficult to read.
I feel my breath against my hand as I breathe out. Waiting. Drifting.
The post forces itself into my hallway.
I’d better move.
Been looking back at old notes, the walks from school in the rain, the hill and Bailey’s wet paws and the cast iron bridge, my path from there to now. The necessary walks that sustained me, the easing out of a world, the osmosis into this one and I have photos that call for a canvas. I promised myself I’d do that, my triptych of scenes from a time, from the shifting and I know each leaf and each stem and when they hang on my wall I’ll see them all, all of me in those moments, wrapped around each soaked blade of grass but others will just see a hill.
My morning walks faded with the growth of our son, an unfolding seeping of change and I see myself on the bench, through these old curtains, oblivious to weather putting one foot in front of the other. Other people use the bench but they don’t know it’s mine.
And the bridge over that road always sensed a change, a move away from the brush of traffic, a dropping into trees and paths and hiding in the undergrowth that grows wild despite my absence.
And I’m in, not out, encased by old walls today and I acknowledge the pull but stay where I am. It’s like the trick photo I took of our son, different shots in one, copied and pasted into a panorama of ten children and I leave this place and float above the house, over the wet roads to the open spaces filled with me and we walk over every blade in haphazard directions, looking out to a strange horizon, looking down tapping on here and our matter buzzes within its form and we wander and wait and exist.
And I see her curled under your rainless sky, your clouds cropped for no one, not today. And I fly back to the first house and the testing out of cameras, light conditions and bikers jackets up the little pathways, through nettles to the top. And from way up there we’d spot our roof, nestled in three just below, just in view if you walked just far enough.
And I’m there now, over us and in that tiny place I see your Mum, curlers and dressing gown, down for the event. One night on the sofa bed before tomorrow. And I was one silk flower short for the place cards and whizzed around the shop in the town, by the hotel that encased us, in the hours after the moments, the moments spent when we went from that house, the house I revisit from here on the hill, as I lie on our bed, displaced, on this bridge between the worlds.
16th – later
The pond is greening up, layers of life taking hold. From this angle the stir of water is chaotic, patterns fight and dance for position. The force creates a reaction, underneath swirled grey green reams of silk, a submerged altered beauty waves and ripples under the thin molecules of water. Gushing folded clouds of form carried by their current. The waterfall, highlighted white faded glass, cycling down into the waiting storm. A veil of power over the spewed up spheres that cluster, hurry, smash and pop. The small stone bridge is mottled with age, worn down steps either side, their difference barely showing.
It was placed here years before me and will erode long after I’ve stopped thinking about water. Flecks of warmth from our son’s new fish sparkle up at me. There’s a golden light to the greens, it looks cooling, a welcome seduction on a summers day – but I know it’s cold. The algae builds, holds its prey, an old autumn leaf, its crunch soaked out, gives in and sticks in the gloop. The weak sun dots the surface, nearly enough to shield my eyes and I watch the effects of water under this micro world village as it spools and billows, loud and gentle, a freedom of form, an inverted taffeta dress of molecules.
This bride over pebbles, churning through cycles, a certainty under the laws.
I feed the fish, they break the surface, shaking circles out in unison, stretching the puddle of sun.
They forage beneath me, eager and woken, responding with instinct to their world.
The sun’s going in, I’m cold.
I’m following its lead.
The wind messes my hair backwards as I hang on to the bridge for support.
And now its back…
The empty house full of anticipation,
waiting for Diane to arrive.
Sat by the stairwell with women doing jobs around me. Diane battling with victorian laces, hot hair and the smell of lilies.
Tea going cold on the shelf at my side while nails turn shimmered pink.
Peter back from his walk getting changed in the tiny packed room, bringing in flowers while I prepared myself upstairs.
Stepping into reams, Diane at the back strapping in.
Everyone waiting downstairs, while the photographer moving table.
The old mirrored sliding doors and trying to turn at the top of the landing.
The tug of the weight of the fabric, the slow descent.
The smell of the lipstick.
The clamber shove of climbing in the car, the high packed seat of clouds,
rustled swaying on the journey up the road.
The swishing to the door, the heavy wood, the iron lock out of sight.
The chain around my neck.
The hush brush of turning right, the short steps to there.
And the stopping.
And the waiting.
And the look.
And later out into the glare of light
and the trees were full and the ‘Dean Martin’ photo is loud inside my mind.
And each moment flutters around me, delicate pastels, sticking in my hair.
And we’re herded around for the smiling with the duck pond still to come. And the memories line up like our guests, in a row, each waiting to have their time with me and they stretch down the hotel hall, biding their moment, their chance.
The silk of the cravats, the lines and jokes, Negotiating veil as I stood to speak. Beating your Dad at his own game and all the faces blurring around me in snatches of time.
Re-runs in April loops of strangeness, all of us with younger hair, playing our parts on this day.
And I let it play out, like the guests, the ones you seek out, the ones you hang onto and ones you try to avoid.
They’re all here in their finery while I look at the milky sky through my empty glass.
Through this sense of perception, from the brim to the dregs, still pouring long and clear, out from under our bridge and beyond.