It’s good I don’t register where I’m headed, because if I had, I would have fought the tide that brought me here, to the threshold of that moment, hovering just outside time and looking at… a mess.
I’m there, slumped on an incorrectly-assembled futon, snoring. The place is an awful mess, and I know exactly why, though every word I could ever give it feels like an understatement. Just being here leaves me feeling claustrophobic, and sick to my stomach, like returning to the site of a long-ago fought war, or… well, or the site where one suffered a grave sickness.
Which… well, it’s one way to talk about it.
I glance into time, at myself on the futon, and a wave of sympathy rushes through me. You poor bastard, I think. I’m not sure anything I say can really help, but… well, I can’t say nothing.
I glance around, but there are no others of me, here—no younger self watching me look into the moment, no older self slipping out of it. I don’t blame them: this is a place and time I’d rather not spend too much time in. But I can’t leave him—myself—alone here without trying to help.
So I will myself into this moment. It’s like slipping through a wall of jellified water, and I am not sure why. Is it my intent to help, to change things?
When I’m in, the sound of my own snoring fills the room. I look at myself, and feel pangs of sorrow, but also a little resentment. Should I be grateful for the stubbornness that helped me survive all this, or resent that it’s what kept me from living?
I fight the urge to wake myself up, to sit and talk, and explain things, and instead just take up the notebook on the table—a black Mead hardcover—and carry it into the living room.
Then I write, in a hand more careful than I have ever written before:
at l’Oratoire de St. Joseph
was a black bird from a place
behind mirrors, broken
faced and unlooked-into,
beak parting, venom whispers.
A city besieged. A
body lies on cobblestones,
crimson flowing out between
A child is somewhere in
the distance, calling
to his father, lost in the
smoke, wounded and poisoned,
stumbling toward the gates.
A man speaks to himself,
voice raised, ink
-stained fingers, this
page in his hands.
At l’Oratoire, the bird
whispered. In this room,
the cawing silenced into
veriginous space, glimpsed
through that broken mirror.
The child cries again: “Papa.”
I hesitate, wondering if this might not just sent me over the edge into believing I’m insane—all those “notes to myself” I’ve found over the years, the things I’ve seen in dreams. This was a fragile time. But this younger me, he understood the language of poems. And as I finish writing it, I feel a strange surge of memories: showing this verse to Jack, and to Jessie, grappling with the enigma, accepting some things don’t make sense.
Sorrow, for example. Or letting it rule one’s being.
Then I snap outward from the moment, and as I do, I see others approaching this instant: younger, older, one about my own age, even. I open my mouth to cry out to them, thinking of Stapledon, of the galactic convoy of minds in Star Marker. I wonder, Are they all me? But then, I feel a force I’ve never felt before, and I’m suddenly moving so quickly I can’t even tell which way I’m going, or to where.