1 the story of the end, of the last word of the end, when told, is a story that never ends. we tell it and retell it — one word, then another until it seems that no last word is possible, that none would be bearable. thus, when the hero of the story says to himself, as to someone far away, 'forgive them, for they know not what they do,' we may feel that he is pleading for us, that we are the secret life of the story and, as long as his plea is not answered, we shall be spared. so the story continues. so we continue. and the end, once more, becomes the next, and the next after that.
2 there is an island in the dark, a dreamt-of place where the muttering wind shifts over the white lawns and riffles the leaves of trees, the high trees that are streaked with gold and line the walkways there; and those already arrived are happy to be the silken remains of something they were but cannot recall; they move to the sound of stars, which is also imagined, but who cares about that; the polished columns they see may be no more than shafts of sunlight, but for those who live on and on in the radiance of their remains this is of little importance. there is an island in the dark and you will be there, i promise you, you shall be with me in paradise, in the single season of being, in the place of forever, you shall find yourself. and there the leaves will turn and never fall, there the wind will sing and be your voice as if for the first time.
3 someday some one will write a story set in a place called the skull, and it will tell, among other things, of a parting between mother and son, of how she wandered off, of how he vanished in air. but before that happens, it will describe how their faces shone with a feeble light and how the son was moved to say, 'woman, look at your son,' then to a friend nearby, 'son, look at your mother.' at which point the writer will put down his pen and imagine that while those words were spoken something else happened, something unusual like a purpose revealed, a secret exchanged, a truth to which they, the mother and son, would be bound, but what it was no one would know. not even the writer.
4 these are the days when the sky is filled with the odor of lilac, when darkness becomes desire, when there is nothing that does not wish to be born. these are the days of spring when the fate of the present is a breezy fullness, when the world's great gift for fiction gilds even the dirt we walk on. on such days we feel we could live forever, yet all the while we know we cannot. this is the doubleness in which we dwell. the great master of weather and everything else, if he wishes, can bring forth a dark of a different kind, one hidden by darkness so deep it cannot be seen. no one escapes. not even the man who saved others, and believed he was the chosen son. when the dark came down even he cried out, 'father, father, why have you forsaken me?' but to his words no answer came.
5 to be thirsty. to say, 'i thirst.' to be given, instead of water, vinegar, and that to be pressed from a sponge. to close one's eyes and see the giant world that is born each time the eyes are closed. to see one's death. to see the darkening clouds as the tragic cloth of a day of mourning. to be the one mourned. to open the dictionary of the beyond and discover what one suspected, that the only word in it is nothing. to try to open one's eyes, but not to be able to. to feel the mouth burn. to feel the sudden presence of what, again and again, was not said. to translate it and have it remain unsaid. to know at last that nothing is more real than nothing.
6 'it is finished,' he said. you could hear him say it, the words almost a whisper, then not even that, but an echo so faint it seemed no longer to come from him, but from elsewhere. this was his moment, his final moment. "it is finished," he said into a vastness that led to an even greater vastness, and yet all of it within him. he contained it all. that was the miracle, to be both large and small in the same instant, to be like us, but more so, then finally to give up the ghost, which is what happened. and from the storm that swirled a formal nakedness took shape, the truth of disguise and the mask of belief were joined forever.
7 back down these stairs to the same scene, to the moon, the stars, the night wind. hours pass and only the harp off in the distance and the wind moving through it. and soon the sun's gray disk, darkened by clouds, sailing above. and beyond, as always, the sea of endless transparence, of utmost calm, a place of constant beginning that has within it what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, what no hand has touched, what has not arisen in the human heart. to that place, to the keeper of that place, i commit myself.
The moment of his looking up seems more than one of distraction. It has the feel of transcendence, as if some revelation were at hand, as if some transforming evidence were encoded in the light. ... It is like an annunciation. The air is stricken with purity. And we are involved in a vision whose source is beyond us, and whose effect is difficult to embrace. After all, we view the scene from the shade. And all we can do from where we stand is meditate on the unspoken barriers between us.
From the shadow of domes in the city of domes, A snowflake, a blizzard of one, weightless, entered your room And made its way to the arm of the chair where you, looking up From your book, saw it the moment it landed. That's all There was to it. No more than a solemn waking To brevity, to the lifting and falling away of attention, swiftly, A time between times, a flowerless funeral. No more than that Except for the feeling that this piece of the storm, Which turned into nothing before your eyes, would come back, That someone years hence, sitting as you are now, might say: "It's time. The air is ready. The sky has an opening."
tell yourself as it gets cold and gray falls from the air that you will go on walking, hearing the same tune no matter where you find yourself— inside the dome of dark or under the cracking white of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow. tonight as it gets cold tell yourself what you know which is nothing but the tune your bones play as you keep going. and you will be able for once to lie down under the small fire of winter stars. and if it happens that you cannot go on or turn back and you find yourself where you will be at the end, tell yourself in that final flowing of cold through your limbs that you love what you are.
1. We are reading the story of our lives which takes place in a room. The room looks out on a street. There is no one there, no sound of anything. The trees are heavy with leaves, the parked cars never move. We keep turning the pages, hoping for something, something like mercy or change, a black line that would bind us or keep us apart. The way it is, it would seem the book of our lives is empty. The furniture in the room is never shifted, and the rugs become darker each time our shadows pass over them. It is almost as if the room were the world. We sit beside each other on the couch, reading about the couch. We say it is ideal. It is ideal.
2. We are reading the story of our lives, as though we were in it, as though we had written it. This comes up again and again. In one of the chapters I lean back and push the book aside because the book says it is what I am doing. I lean back and begin to write about the book. I write that I wish to move beyond the book. Beyond my life into another life. I put the pen down. The book says: "He put the pen down and turned and watched her reading the part about herself falling in love." The book is more accurate than we can imagine. I lean back and watch you read about the man across the street. They built a house there, and one day a man walked out of it. You fell in love with him because you knew that he would never visit you, would never know you were waiting. Night after night you would say that he was like me. I lean back and watch you grow older without me. Sunlight falls on your silver hair. The rugs, the furniture, seem almost imaginary now. "She continued to read. She seemed to consider his absence of no special importance, as someone on a perfect day will consider the weather a failure because it did not change his mind." You narrow your eyes. You have the impulse to close the book which describes my resistance: how when I lean back I imagine my life without you, imagine moving into another life, another book. It describes your dependence on desire, how the momentary disclosures of purpose make you afraid. The book describes much more than it should. It wants to divide us.
3. This morning I woke and believed there was no more to to our lives than the story of our lives. When you disagreed, I pointed to the place in the book where you disagreed. You fell back to sleep and I began to read those mysterious parts you used to guess at while they were being written and lose interest in after they became part of the story. In one of them cold dresses of moonlight are draped over the chairs in a man's room. He dreams of a woman whose dresses are lost, who sits in a garden and waits. She believes that love is a sacrifice. The part describes her death and she is never named, which is one of the things you could not stand about her. A little later we learn that the dreaming man lives in the new house across the street. This morning after you fell back to sleep I began to turn the pages early in the book: it was like dreaming of childhood, so much seemed to vanish, so much seemed to come to life again. I did not know what to do. The book said: "In those moments it was his book. A bleak crown rested uneasily on his head. He was the brief ruler of inner and outer discord, anxious in his own kingdom."
4. Before you woke I read another part that described your absence and told how you sleep to reverse the progress of your life. I was touched by my own loneliness as I read, knowing that what I feel is often the crude and unsuccessful form of a story that may never be told. "He wanted to see her naked and vulnerable, to see her in the refuse, the discarded plots of old dreams, the costumes and masks of unattainable states. It was as if he were drawn irresistably to failure." It was hard to keep reading. I was tired and wanted to give up. The book seemed aware of this. It hinted at changing the subject. I waited for you to wake not knowing how long I waited, and it seemed that I was no longer reading. I heard the wind passing like a stream of sighs and I heard the shiver of leaves in the trees outside the window. It would be in the book. Everything would be there. I looked at your face and I read the eyes, the nose, the mouth ...
5. If only there were a perfect moment in the book; if only we could live in that moment, we could being the book again as if we had not written it, as if we were not in it. But the dark approaches to any page are too numerous and the escapes are too narrow. We read through the day. Each page turning is like a candle moving through the mind. Each moment is like a hopeless cause. If only we could stop reading. "He never wanted to read another book and she kept staring into the street. The cars were still there, the deep shade of trees covered them. The shades were drawn in the new house. Maybe the man who lived there, the man she loved, was reading the story of another life. She imagine a bare parlor, a cold fireplace, a man sitting writing a letter to a woman who has sacrificed her life for love." If there were a perfect moment in the book, it would be the last. The book never discusses the causes of love. It claims confusion is a necessary good. It never explains. It only reveals.
6. The day goes on. We study what we remember. We look into the mirror across the room. We cannot bear to be alone. The book goes on. "They became silent and did not know how to begin the dialogue which was necessary. It was words that created divisions in the first place, that created loneliness. They waited they would turn the pages, hoping something would happen. They would patch up their lives in secret: each defeat forgiven because it could not be tested, each pain rewarded because it was unreal. They did nothing."
7. The book will not survive. We are the living proof of that. It is dark outside, in the room it is darker. I hear your breathing. You are asking me if I am tired, if I want to keep reading. Yes, I am tired. Yes, I want to keep reading. I say yes to everything. You cannot hear me. "They sat beside each other on the couch. They were the copies, the tired phantoms of something they had been before. The attitudes they took were jaded. They stared into the book and were horrified by their innocence, their reluctance to give up. They sat beside each other on the couch. They were determined to accept the truth. Whatever it was they would accept it. The book would have to be written and would have to be read. They are the book and they are nothing else.
Unmoved by what the wind does, The windows Are not rattled, nor do the various Areas Of the house make their usual racket -- Creak at The joints, trusses and studs. Instead, They are still. And the maples, Able At times to raise havoc, Evoke Not a sound from their branches' Clutches. It's my night to be rattled, Saddled With spooks. Even the half-moon (Half man, Half dark), on the horizon, Lies on Its side casting a fishy light Which alights On my floor, lavishly lording Its morbid Look over me. Oh, I feel dead, Folded Away in my blankets for good, and Forgotten. My room is clammy and cold, Moonhandled And weird. The shivers Wash over Me, shaking my bones, my loose ends Loosen, And I lie sleeping with one eye open, Hoping That nothing, nothing will happen.