days to Ireland: 22
cups of coffee: 3
cups of tea: 1
inches of rain fallen:1.75
readings this weekend: 1
essays to write: 1
letters to respond to: 1
books to review: 3
Novel edits are back from RW at Thrice Publishing. All that remains is for me to go through the manuscript and check his edits, make any last minute changes I want to make to the novel, and then send the file back for the last time. This prospect fills me with a strange doubled emotion of dread/happiness. These days there are not enough hours in the week to even see where novel edits might fit in to things. Between teaching full-time at high school, and raising a two-year-old, and sometimes a seven-and-a-half-year-old, the hours of free time are few. Maybe on the flight home to Dublin in March, and on the return journey? Maybe. I know the changes I want to make and though they’re not plot-altering, they represent a layering of sorts, a thickening of the roux, to drop in a gumbo-making analogy. The best roux is dark chocolate colored, taken, as my gumbo mentor, Lucy Buffett says, “to the edge.” So, the manuscript needs to be stirred some more, a little more flour added, a little more stirring, the storyline thickening, richening, maturing. And then, it needs a title. Good grief, the hardest part of all. That conundrum is going to be a tough nut. It’ll take a few pints of Guinness in Kehoes, or the ‘Diggers, to figure out that one. It’s a bit like the endgame in a game of chess. One false move and disaster awaits.
The snake’s corpse dries in the front garden, next to the blood orange tree. Death seeps into the dry earth, the winter an impossibility, the heat, an ever-present. Pages, stories, reviews, edits, shucked and discarded. There are not hours enough. Nor time. Empty vessels convey great noise, the beat of stick on plastic drum, the tap tap of woodpecker on telephone pole. Dog Days. Church, kneel, pray, subside. These are troubled times, the weight of things, eustress, the replacement for the distress of lassitude. 25-foot lengths of hose, soaker, laid flat about the shrubbery, the beads of moisture on the forehead, fever broken, the coffee cold in its cup. Far whistle of train, rolling stock through evening town, jump the rails and head for the border. The constant buzz of social networks slows down, ennui brought about by hoarse-voiced tweets, impotent likes, the gratification as useful as a sieve in a sinking vessel. Somewhere close the air is pure, crisp, oxygen-depleted. Across the sofa, the pelt of a zebra from imaginary journeys to Tsavo. Lions, once. Prize, too. Then I had possibilities. I cover the ground in straw, crunching with each footstep. At night the possums tread on the strawberry plants, their footprints on the muslin dropped to keep the weeds at bay. Each moon a moment, each restless turn a mercy.
She sat at the Leeson Street bridge. Beautiful. Long violet hair, a flowing multi-colored dress like one the flamenco dancers wear. Her eyes, two swirling absences. Her shoes, patent leather polished to a fine sheen, in which every movement of the street was captured. Crystal balls, future told in confidence—of lost children, broken hearts, work in far-away places. Like her laugh, too, musical notes slowly falling.
There will be rain, of a sort, enough to wet our earth, but not enough to whet our appetites. The weight is an implacable foe, the sort of enemy who hides in the dark, waiting, watching, practicing a senseless meditation as he waits for the suns and moons to turn in their particular way, until at the perfect moment of juxtaposition, the blow is dealt. Some of us are aware of the weight, out there, pressing, pressing, the heavy dark of his hand, the subtle raising of an eyelid as he considers the alignment of the sky, and some of us are oblivious of his presence, blissfully going about the mundane tasks that complete the day. Sky is gray, a light shade, unimpressive, washed in a white rinse. Serried birds sing of dismal things, the complete absence of light, the shutting of windows, the furrow made by a maggot in an old fruit.
To run, to turn, to spin sideways and back again. Song in my head, slow chant of unknown monks guiding my feet along the path. Upheave, the groundswell, the breaking of dry soil, the rupture in the crust. We plan as we can, we envision the many ways we can exit the long, convoluted labyrinth, the hissing of valves in unseen rooms where nameless laborers ply trades no more remembered. One such used keep the light on a narrow strip of land beyond the last island before the sky made sea and nothing else mattered. The click of beak, the constant, steady rhythm of the call, the nuisance of things, how ineffectual most of the options seem. Two hawk feathers in an old glass vial remind me of the freedom of flight, the surge of air under the belly as the currents take hold and sweep me along, uncontrolled, uncertain, always alive.