The Ecstatic Silence: 19


19 May

Funerals put traditional approaches under pressure. They are less part of a story than repertoires of late-style. He listens to those last Beethoven quartets in the way you might try basket weaving. There’ll be a remote force and carved out patterns. Inertia with the lights of tunneling regress. 

There were days when everyone was a wild animal. This was a kind of repudiation. There is a space of compressed distance. It is attached to the false promise of the unconditional subject. There’s a dynamic shuttling. The cognitive authority sustained by approximation was expensive. Johnny was reminded of his mindless repetition, the exhaustive circularity of bureaucratic looping. He would listen intently to Beethoven’s invisible spaces behind. A conference centre once quoted a list: ‘… transverse obsolete mediaeval and oriental weapons, dinner gong, alabaster lamp, bowl pendant, vulcanite automatic telephone receiver with adjacent receiver, ormolu mantel chronometer clocks tinier than thimbles.’ Although within quote marks, it wasn’t real. It wasn’t even a miniaturized quote. It wasn’t even a surface. Error surfaces when we try so hard. But it was a real quote, nevertheless.

As when half awake, the lecture in full swing, Johnny is in the house. Dimity curtains swung. Something wildly splashed in the bathroom.

‘I came here to stop being ashamed,’ someone whispered into a phone. Trees wound with mist. In this place you could starve to death. Did anyone scream for him in the night? It takes time to find the right place for a breakfast. There could have been guests looking for the filthy hall. Foul filthy house. In any other house they’d have been here by now.

‘You might hear me whistling through the wrong door,’ he shuddered. Some days, when it gets hard, he thought he belonged on a shelf. Strangely, it never felt that the dishes belonged anywhere indoors. Sequences of sixteen notes on the same tone were hostile.

If only the sound could echo something earlier. Selling stuff is a mediocre way. At times old jazz and rain resembled each other enough. The dark tiles round the fireplace were little trapdoors. Is this suitable for any kind of suicide? Johnny didn’t anticipate every fleeting thought. That one came left field. He could visualize perfectly more than the one front door. Looking out from the same windows the views were distinctly odd and changing. Every angle is slightly wrong. Every degree is, in direction or other, too much. Look, it’s not a disaster but it blocks you in. There’s a geographical and allegorical setting always very slightly slanted. What is it that misleads us? Johnny would worry about the misdirection and slight loss of balance. He neither plays nor pays attention to the stern harp in the music room. Once he plays cards on the marble-topped table with its waxed flowers under glass. He played as if it might turn out ok. Some songs have verses trapped inside them. They can’t look out. Same as all these internal rooms. It’s the difference between blues and ballads.

For a time he tries a phrase. Next time he’s lost for words. In appalling sentimentality there’s a searching. Look around for the broken words. Open mouths part company with dumbness as if startled. But the silence is the one that has uncommunicable forever in it. He’d liked to testify to everything. But you can’t repeat. You are never staying in the past long enough. There are times when someone lies and denies all this. But if memory is a fundraiser, who is buying? Luxury crowds out everything that turns out well. Fame is a sad loss of fervor, an elusive twisting. You wake up with your arms in another car.

He had his family portraits. He brandished them as they had been done from life. You expect to feel skin. His eyes closed with sudden tears. He brushed them off with timid breathlessness. Explosions in the back of his skull moved out like sullen crayfish. His face registered a demoralized summertime. He was always delaying his reactions. But he did that without delay. Maybe there were better things than sunburn? He walked turbulently or not at all. The shadows were swift maniacs. The dark entered him intravenously. These hot seventies' summers were pathologies of cord, leather and recoil. A herring gulls’ bleak features told of unrelieved despair. Ice creams were made from small, inexpensive cows. He ignored chances, preferring to wait for the unlikely. There’s an immaculate perfection in empty detail.