POETRY AND FEAR GRACE ANDREACCHI
The right of Grace Andreacchi to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. This is a work of fiction. Any similarity of persons, places or events depicted herein to actual persons, places or events is purely coincidental. Copyright ÂŠ 2008 by Grace Andreacchi Hadas All rights reserved Cover image: The Mystic Nativity, Sandro Botticelli, detail
by the same author SCARABOCCHIO GIVE MY HEART EASE MUSIC FOR GLASS ORCHESTRA ELYSIAN SONNETS AND OTHER POEMS VEGETABLE MEDLY (FOR THE THEATRE)
PART ONE - THE QUEEN OF SPAIN PART TWO – ORPHEUS PART THREE – THE FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLY
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
PART ONE - THE QUEEN OF SPAIN THERE ARE DOORS in the mind through which only the brave may pass. Heavy golden doors, gem-encrusted, set in crystal, sealed with a thick sealing of blackest pitch. They open not to the ordinary hand, to the reasonable the well-groomed the wary - they open only to the hand that trembles, trembles! I say with fear and yet reaches out... To pass beyond these doors is to enter a kingdom of loneliness, a blue and gold wasteland where the fires of hell flicker
underfoot and the choirs of heaven hum just audibly behind the burning yellow sky. At the end of this wasteland - for it has an end! God is merciful, after all - there is another door, a small door, and simple, made of soft, unpainted wood - one would hardly notice it if one were not already on the look-out for just such a door. It is so small one will most likely have to stoop to pass through. It opens easily to a light pressure of the hand. But if you have come this far! Why, then you may go in. This is the door to the human heart. You will not see many such hands in a lifetime. Once attached to the lightly swaying violin of a childish prodigy standing barefoot in the snow outside the boarded-up Ansonia Hotel; once through the window of a passing train somewhere near the Czech border; and then there was Julio, there is Julio. At the age of four he had not yet learned to speak. He could sing and dance to perfection, he was like a blue feather, his feet were small and fine in patent leather shoes. Kiss me, Julio - I said. Suddenly he was forty. I saw the golden doors for the first time. I knew that they would open to those
small, fine hands. I wanted to buy an emerald a ruby a diamond ring for Julio to wear upon those hands. - You ought to have a ring, Julio, I said. We went together to the Place Vend么me in search of the perfect ring for Julio. At Mauboussin a woman with red wax lips showed us many rings. The stones were red and green with the blood of men and insects. Candles were burning in Ecuador, too many people had died for these stones. None of the rings was right for Julio. He was already forty, he had not yet learned to speak. - Kiss me, Julio. I tried to insist. He would not. - I'm afraid, he said. There were bruises around his wonderful eyes. He was frightened, I could see that, he was only four, a very small boy after all. Too young for such a kiss. On his small white hand was an emerald. He pulled at the ring, it was impossible to remove, it had grown together with the flesh. - Come and rest your head in my lap, I said. I'll tell you a story, a wonderful story, all about a prince who lived in a beautiful white castle, deep in a dark, dark wood. Julio put his finger in his mouth and began to suck, the emerald glittered near his chin, there were bruises round his eyes. Suddenly he was forty again. - I'm
so tired, he said. Tell me a story. Can you tell me a story? I'm afraid, he said. Then he did not speak again for many years. Well! There are many stories... There is the one about the Prince who killed a five-headed dragon and rescued a Princess from an ivory tower; there is the one about the boy who lost his way in the wood and met a talking fox, who showed him the secret of a great treasure; there is the one about wicked King Herod who tried to kill the Infant Jesus, and killed all the other babies instead. The Infant Jesus was safely on his way to Egypt, as everybody knows. There is the one about the Pharaoh who built a pyramid of pure gold, so high that it reached all the way to the sun... Thus did I beguile my child my lover my very life this Julio. He did not speak but listened with wonderful twilight eyes. Sometimes he laughed - music like the rustle of crystal forests in blue daylight. - I will do anything to make you laugh, I said. To make you smile. I gave my life to this task - it is an excellent thing to have a purpose in life at last! I will make Julio smile, I said that to myself. Every morning when I awoke I would ask myself - What can I do today to make Julio happy?
There was always something, usually several things to be done. It did not prove to be all that difficult to make him smile, it was basically a matter of full attention to the question. I do not believe anyone had ever tried it before. Why should they, after all? The beauty of Julio's smile, this was a sight not for men but for angels. Men would not know how to value it. I knew, but then, I loved him. Love him, present tense. Shall always love him, future tense. My Julio. Julio does not exist. That is the expert opinion, so I will let you have it here, up front, no holds barred, let there be no secrets between us therefore I tell you freely and without reserve or shame although he changed my life forever, although he opened for me the golden doors of the mind, the hidden door to the bloody rose that beats within the breast, although he can sing and dance to perfection, although I have looked into those eyes a thousand times and said - Listen, Julio, Once upon a time there was a Prince... In spite of all this the expert opinion adjudicated from the lips of a large flabby white fish dressed in a grey suit in a grey room on Harley Street in London, England - No, my Julio does not
exist. It's considered to be a very wise Fish, an excellent Fish, it's been to all the best fish schools. You are a charming woman, says the Fish. Its hands are thick and dead, they will not open any doors, they will close doors, heavy metal doors that slam shut once and for all with a clang like the tumble of the guillotine upon charming women who tell too many fine stories about princes, and princesses, and five-headed dragons... We know the name of this Fish - Julio and I. We have seen him before, we were only fourteen. We were shut up behind metal doors, things were done to us, we bear the bruises still around the eyes. You love him, says the Fish. An accusation. We are too wise to disagree. We are wise as serpents. You love him, you love him, you love him... But how can I love him if he doesn't exist? Nobody can take that away from you, says the Fish. He is humouring me now. He thinks I don't notice, but I notice everything. I've seen this Fish before. We, Julio and I, have seen all too many such fishy fishy Fish. Who shall take the soul out of my body, the heart out of my breast? I don't say that. Not to the Fish. Cast not your pearls before Fish...
To get out of this place alive - our task for the day. We move quickly, light as a blue feather, the Fish is slow... Past the fat woman who guards the door and the thin woman who guards the telephone, past the grey-and-gold hunting man's private waiting room, into a black taxi, a blue airport, a shining silver plane. There is water on the wings, on the runway, glistening in a thousand golden lights. We get home alive, safe and sound, all in one piece, my Julio and I, safe together once again under the lindens. When I look in the mirror the next morning I see there are fresh bruises round the eyes. Come to Vienna, said Julio with his wonderful eyes. There was snow on the runway, I was afraid but the Angels took care of it. There was snow on the wings of the plane. Julio's friends were smiling with many eyes from all sides of the cabin. - We like your hat, they said. We like your smile, we like you. We are the friends of Julio, please like us! I read a French novel, I tried to keep breathing despite the many eyes singing whispers snow on the wings. Upon arrival in Vienna I was greeted by a chorus of a thousand smiles a thousand singing whispers a
swarm of pale lemon-yellow butterflies that settled on my arms and hair and followed me everywhere. We are the friends the lovers the devout of Julio, please notice us please like us please tell us your secrets. I did not speak, or rather, I spoke only when absolutely necessary. Julio's secrets are safe with me. On arrival in Vienna I was greeted by Julio, speechless with delight and fear, leaning from a second storey window above the Annagasse. There was snow on the church bells, on the copper towers, on the people and cars. My patent leather shoes were wet with snow. Julio was waiting for me behind a golden door, he was dressed like a Prince or a dragon in black and gold. He kissed my hand. - You are mine, he said. You are mine, all mine. To this I agreed with my heart, with my wonderful eyes. I gave him a flower, he was to keep it forever. Forever and ever and ever. You are mine, said the flower. I am yours. I was dressed like a Princess in a black velvet gown. - Mine, all mine, said Julio. I started to cry. The streets were full of drunken boys. They fell in the snow but were not hurt, the snow embraced
them gently, kissed them held them close. The windows were full of Christmas lights - red and green blue and green gold and pink and white, and a white moon shining upon snow. That too was Julio. I put my head out the window, there was snow on the ledge and on the copper domes across the way. The room was hot, so high above the Annagasse, so I put my head out the window, I wore the white net curtain behind me like a bridal veil, my head was cold and my hands, all the rest of me very hot. The drunken boys were singing in the street below, one lay motionless in the snow, eyes and mouth closed, he did not make a sound. This too was Julio. The room was hot, I was obliged to remove the black velvet dress. Now in the black lace bra pink silk stockings carnation skin pearl necklace I sat down on the bed. On the other side of the room a woman exactly like me sat down on an identical bed. I took Julio in my arms. - Let me love you, I said. Let me, let me... I lay down on the green silk bedcover, the woman on the other side of the room lay down on an identical green silk bedcover, I closed my eyes. My eyes and lips were hot my
knees were trembling, there was a big hole just beneath my left breast where Julio had to go. I kissed him I kissed him I tried with these kisses to fill the bloody hole... Who shall take the heart out of my body? Again and again with kisses I tried to fill the hole. When I opened my eyes I was alone in the room on the Annagasse. I knew if I sat up, the woman on the other side of the room would sit up too. I looked for a while at my arm on the green silk bedcover - carnation pale pink and blue lightly sweating pungent with a rare French parfum, the curves found in nature are always the best, I thought. I got up from the bed. My knees were trembling. A letter to Julio - that was the only thing inside my head. I sat down at the table, I took a fresh sheet of paper, I took the pen in my hand. My hand was trembling so, the words would not come right. I wanted to write a letter to Julio, to say - I love you I love you I simply love you I have a big hole right here right in the middle of my being and it hurts. Please give me back this missing piece, else I shall surely die... I closed my eyes my hands were trembling. The words were there inside my head
but would not come right onto soft green paper. If only I had brought the rose-coloured paper from home! But no - I had only this green hotel paper. I went into the bathroom. In the bathroom was another woman, exactly like me. Her face carnation pale her eyelids veiled in blue-black shadows pearl necklace round her throat and her lips slightly blue. Her hand was trembling so, she dropped the glass from which I was about to drink. I sat down at the table. I closed my eyes, my hands. I watched the Christmas lights inside my head - red and green blue and green pink and white and gold. I listened very carefully - sometimes I hear best with my eyes closed. Soon I heard it - the thing I was listening for - Julio's silence. He has not yet learned to speak. I listened very hard to this silence, for a long time I listened, I don't know how long, for many years. When I opened my eyes Julio was looking at me with his wonderful eyes. I took up the pen and began to write - a letter to Julio. Sometimes I write best with my eyes closed. He was very tired, his knees were trembling. He lay down on the red velvet bedcover. Three other men
exactly like him lay down upon three identical red velvet bedcovers. Julio shut his eyes. He was dressed in a white shirt open at the throat, black trousers, patent leather shoes. The sleeves of the shirt were rolled to the elbows. The arms upon red velvet naked gold lightly touched with golden down, the veins moving silently beneath the skin. His lips were trembling, slightly blue. His hands were trembling, he shut them tight, the right hand closed over a flower. I am yours, said the flower. You are mine. There was a pin in the flower, it pricked the inside of Julio's hand. The hand closed tightly over the pin. I am yours, said the pin, cutting deep into the soft flesh of Julio's palm. You are mine. Julio turned over in the bed, the red velvet whispered as he turned, the bed moaned softly, Julio did not make a sound. Three identical men turned over soundlessly upon three whispering velvet beds. Julio lay face down on the red velvet bedcover, his arms over his head, protecting his head, his hands tightly closed. In the right hand was a flower, in the left hand nothing at all. The blades of his shoulders made two peaks slightly askew inside the white shirt. Under the left shoulder blade was Julio's
heart, under the right shoulder blade nothing at all. He turned once again onto his back, the bed whispered and moaned, the lights flickered, Julio opened his eyes and looked for a while at the ceiling. There was ice on the darkened chandelier; resting among its cold branches, unseen by Julio, a pale, lemon-coloured butterfly. Julio brought the flower close up to his face, it smelled of a rare French parfum, it spoke very softly to Julio. I love you, said the flower. I love you, I simply love you. Julio did not speak, he was not yet able to speak, but he sighed a perfectly audible sigh. This is all the answer you are going to get, he said to the flower. Julio speaks the language of flowers, the language of sighs. It is enough. THE SOUND that I need to hear. Julio's voice. Julio's voice, that begins somewhere inside Julio's throat, is a temple built with invisible columns of vibrating molecules - a temple to the holy spirit that is Julio. Is it a beautiful temple? People say that it is, that my Julio has the most beautiful voice in the world. I would think so too, but I no longer think about Julio's voice - I simply need it. Beautiful or
ugly, cracked or whole, tired or fresh, singing speaking whispering sighing laughing screaming in pain or is it fear? the sound that tells me yes , he exists - my Julio.
I sat on the airplane with Julio. He read a newspaper, he was not able to speak. I watched the top of his head. I wanted to kiss the top of his head, to take his hand, to say - It's all right, Julio. Don't be afraid. He was frightened, I could see that, he was very very tired. There was ice on the wings, on the small rectangular windows, in the plastic beakers from which we were given to drink. In Berlin the snow was all gone. I listened to a Turkish driver and longed for the sound of Julio's voice, the top of his head, his hand. I had his silence - it was just enough. If I have something, anything of Julio's, why then I am able to... exist. In Vienna I spoke French with a Yugoslav driver, in Berlin Turkish, which I do not speak, but they always say the same things, these beautiful boys with their flexible steering-wheel hands, they
all want to know about Julio. Is he a good lover? Does he satisfy my every need? Gentlemen, I assure you - He does. On the airplane at first I was frightened, I was very tired, I looked at the top of Julio's head, at his newspaper, I listened very hard to his profound silence, then I was no longer afraid. We were together, Julio and I, we would live or die together in the same flying metal womb, nothing else mattered, everything was fine, I went to sleep. When I woke up the snow was all gone. Julio walked away into the night, carrying his suitcase, wearing his absolute loneliness like a cloak. A beautiful velvet cloak. Julio is a Prince in disguise, an enchanted swan, an emperor in his velvet cloak. On his head he wears at all times a beautiful golden crown. I watched him walk away into the night. The night swallowed him up. Where did he go? I lay down on my bed of roses, my bed of thorns. I lay down with Julio between my breasts, a bundle of spices. I wanted to cry because the night had swallowed him up, but I have promised Julio not to cry for a while. Before I was always crying, I think it
made him sorry - I want him to be glad. I didn't cry. I love you, I said. I love you I simply love you. I shut my eyes and watched the top of his head. THERE WAS ICE in the Teltow Canal, great floating blocks of it, turning and turning slowly in the black water. The swans white upon black, swimming among the floes. At first I did not know what it was, the ice, so long since I have seen such ice. In the Hudson every winter ice such as this, but I do not wish to remember the things that happened over there. I have remembered enough, I have almost died of remembering, I would rather forget perhaps this is why I did not know floating ice when I first saw it. I waved to the swans, I threw them kisses, they didn't seem to notice me but I didn't mind. I wanted to climb onto the ice and float down the canal to Julio. I was sure he'd be waiting for me somewhere-or-other. My swan, my knight, the light of my life, my sun, my moon, my guiding star, my Julio. At Hallesches Tor the ice was frozen solid in long waves like the locks of a giantess's hair, the banks were covered with new snow. More swans - I lavished kisses upon them. - I love you, I said to the
swans. They took it in stride. Children were burning sparklers, bright pinwheels of joy in the lavender snow. Children were calling in high, sweet voices outside my window, roses in the snow. Ein Kind von dir... I said those words to Julio. He placed his hands there, where the child would be. I turned my head to hide my tears. Another woman, exactly like me, turned her head as well, looked back at me with tear-bright eyes. There was no Julio beside her. She was all alone. Ein Kind von dir. The child in my womb leaped for joy at the sound of thy voice, leaped at the sound of thy footsteps in the hall. Oh my beloved, comfort me with apples, for I am big with thy child. Maria, Sophia, Felicitas, Raphael, Gabriel, Michael or as you like it, my love, my Lord. A godling, a little piece of eternity made flesh, a little piece of - Thee.
I lay on my back in the grass beside the Serpentine. The grass was short, the swans had eaten it down to the ground, the sun had baked it right down to the
dusty ground. It was hot in London, and dirty and sad. I lay on my back with my eyes closed, listening. It was hard work, listening, always listening. I was frequently exhausted. I sat in the sad cafĂŠs where everything was dirty - the cups the spoons the plastic tablecloth the waitress's fingernails I sat in the laundromat that smelled of vomit and chlorine I sat in a green-and-white deck chair beside the Serpentine I lay on my back in bed in the airless attic room - listening, always listening. I had to listen hard, so hard! I wanted to cry, but I had promised Julio that I would not cry anymore. Not until I can cry in your arms, my love my life my soul. I listened for such a long time! For years and years and years. Then one day the telephone rang and suddenly there it was, the thing I had been listening for all those years - Julio's silence. There are two places, identical but completely different, both are called Engelskirchen. A small town in east Germany. One is hot and still, spilling over the rim with the green-gold light of a summer afternoon. There is a lake of green-gold water, an allĂŠe of dusty trees, a fine old church, red-and-white,
with a stalwart tower that broods over the town like an old chevalier back from the Crusades, there is a wooden picnic table where I sat beside Julio in the green-gold light and gave my heart away forever. To Julio. Julio, inexperienced in such matters, did not know what to do with this unexpected gift. I looked into his wonderful eyes - I had never done that before! Looked into a man's eyes - no, that was something I avoided at all costs. Once look into their eyes and they will have the power to destroy you, I thought. But Julio did not destroy me. He simply - looked back. After this I was not the same. Things hurt that had not hurt before. I remembered things, I went to Venice, I nearly died there of remembering but the Angels held onto me, woke me up, forced their fingers down my throat, dragged me back. For Julio. The Angels knew what was coming - I did not. The evils of the past live on in our hearts. The evils of the present press upon us like an enemy army. But the evils of the future! And the good, please God, certainly the good. I did not die, but lived. To experience the future.
What did I find there? The second Engelskirchen. Cold and still, brimming with lavender light pale stars a white moon rising over snowy fields. There were Christmas lights hanging from the naked trees, torches flaring in the dark, children clustering like moths around paper lanterns, a stalwart tower rising into the dark, his courage undiminished by the cold. There were candles burning bright inside a red-and-white church and Julio under the croisĂŠe holding out his hand to me. - I love you, he said with his hand, with his wonderful eyes. I simply love you. I looked and looked into Julio's eyes, I did not know it was going to be like that! Things hurt that had never hurt before, but I was glad! I was glad I was glad... Now I knew at last why the Angels had interfered like that. I shall not die but live. He has set me as a seal upon his arm, a seal upon his heart and - Oh my Julio! Love is strong as death. The snow came and left white footprints outside my door. Some of them were Julio's. He was there, outside my door in the snow. He did not ring the bell, he did not say a word, he has not yet learned to
speak. He brought me a gift. I found it there in the morning, glittering softly on my doorstep in the light of the snow - Julio's heart. I took it up very gently, I looked and looked, I could not believe my eyes - such an unexpected gift! I took it up gently, I carried it to my lips, I kissed it very gently. I am yours, it said whispered shouted sang, the earth and sky were ringing with the sound of it the snow and the mud and the windows and doors all singing it I am yours. He is mine. Let heaven and nature sing. Every snow crystal is different from every other. Since the world began how many billions and billions of tiny crystals have fallen on the upturned face of earth? Every one different from every other. Some feather fine, some cut like lace, some wear the faces of animals and children, some are sober and others gay some are stark and some bedizened all are chaste and secretive and although they fall into general types each is different from every other. Then each must be thinking its own thoughts, dreaming its own dreams, be troubled by its own desires - but if you draw close and listen for the whisper of these dreams thoughts desires the thing
you are listening for is suddenly extinguished with a tiny sizzle like the snuffing of a candle under one's thumb. Snow crystals are unable to withstand the closeness of a human body. They simply melt. Snow was falling on the Teltow Canal on the bare twisted trees on the heads of animals and children on the long black even streets on the tracks of the S-Bahn on the upturned face of patient earth. Billions and billions of tiny whispering crystals, every one different, every one chaste. Birds were flying in great flocks over the ruined Reichstag hundreds and thousands perhaps millions or even billions of birds since the world began, all white but every one different, wheeling and turning in arcs of flashing white upon a white sky. Their cries filled the empty air over the Reichstag, sounding a mysterious alarm - one did not know what news of joy or disaster they had come to announce. Black birds were walking in the snow - enormous black birds, birds the size of small children or dogs. They had killed a rabbit and were picking it to pieces in the snow. Rose red in the snow the bloody animal all dead. I have promised Julio not to cry. I went inside and shut the door. There was snow on the
door, on the windows, on the table and chairs, on the bed where I lie all night with Julio between my breasts a bundle of spices. I didn't know what to do about all the snow, whether to be glad or - the opposite. I lay down carefully on the bed in the snow and moved my arms to make a snow-angel. This I had done quite often as a child. Even as a very young child I had much time and patience for the creation of such ephemeral beauties. I lay on my back and looked up at the white sky, I moved my arms carefully in slow arcs, beginning above the head moving slowly down to my sides. The tricky part is getting up - you don't want to smash the angel by stepping on it. If you stagger even a little bit it's lost. But you can always try again. As long as the snow holds out. I lay there on my back and wondered about the flowers that were sleeping there under the snow. I could feel them watching me right through the snow - flowers are very curious. Probably because they have to stay in one place all their lives. Julio went away. Suddenly the world was dark empty unbearable cold no rhyme to its fearful music
no reason to its turning once more round. Like the church on Good Friday when they turn out all the lights blow out all the candles shroud all the statues in purple shrouds - he went away and the world was suddenly changed to a dark stranger. Where did he go, my Julio? To New York. Sometimes I see pictures of New York on television, then I have to change the channel very quickly. Pictures of New York frighten me, I can't bear to look at it - New York. What happened to me there, that a blurry image on a television screen thousands and thousands of miles away safe in the Prussian wilderness is sufficient to fill me with unbearable dread? What happened? What? Would you like to know? I grew up there. I did not go to New York with Julio. First of all because he did not ask me. For such an earthshattering question the time is not yet ripe. Then, I'm frightened of New York, I don't want to go there ever again, unless of course with Julio to protect me. He will put his arms around me very gently. If any dragons appear to molest me Julio will simply kill them dead. But as things stand - No, I'm not going back to New York. No thank you.
I went last year. Julio was there too, but he didn't speak to me, not a word, he had not yet learned to speak. Still, he certainly saved my life last winter in New York. For some things, speech is superfluous. Julio has... other resources. I'm in no way exaggerating, I certainly would have died in New York last winter if not for Julio. It was strangely warm, like spring. Everything had the same colours as before. I noticed this immediately in the taxi from the airport. These colours, the colours of fear. I have your daughter, said the driver to my father. He called my father on a mobile phone, he wanted to ask directions, in New York nobody knows where he is going, everybody is always getting lost. I have your daughter. My father thought that perhaps I had been kidnapped from the airport. How much would he pay to have me back, I wonder? The light of his life, the favourite, the plaything, the foolish virgin... How much? Some day he will be called to pay a price for this girl child, this plaything, some day, but it is not I who shall reckon it up. We have your daughter! The Angels might have said it that time in Venice, they might
have called long distance from the Gritti Palace Hello, we have your daughter. Prepare to pay... Julio helped me. Julio saved me. He was waiting for me in a red and gold palace, he was dressed like an angel in red and gold, he held out his hand to me - such a fine hand! There was grace in it, beauty, and simple truth, and courage undiminished by the outer darkness. Start not, much-injured Princess, said Julio with his hand, with his wonderful eyes. How did he know that I am a much-injured Princess? Every place has its own colours. La lumiĂ¨re du nord... said my good friend the Prince of Palagonia, pulling the green velvet drapes against the lavender night that was fast filling the garden court of the Palais Royal. He was speaking not of Paris, where he passed his declining years in pleasant exile, but of Venice, whose winter dress of violet and gold once stirred my heart so that it rose on the wings of the iridescent doves above the foaming sea cupolas of San Marco it rode the cool pink waves around the Salute at dawn it ached and ached - I did not know why. In my head was already something of Julio.
Ombra mai f첫... sang Julio, inside my head, as the grave golden dawn unshadowed the Salute, flashed up in the windows of a hundred dead palaces, rode the cool green waves. Ombra mai f첫... I have not been back to Venice since that time I was saved by the Angels - it was summer then, the colours were different, I needed a few minutes to recognise her dressed as she was in dark rose purple royal velvet green. The splash of oars and the wail of accordions at night beneath the window where I sat waiting to die. Would these colours now make me afraid? I don't know - I haven't been back to find out. There are so many questions I do not know the answers to. What colour is Prague in summer? What colour is Budapest? China? Why is every snow crystal different from every other? Why do the Innocent suffer? Why Evil in the World? Why has Julio not yet learned to speak? And - Who is the man in the black leather jacket who follows me on the U-Bahn at night? Before Julio I did not know why my heart ached like that - now I do. It aches for Julio, for love of Julio - this was always true but I had to meet him first in order to find it out. A whole lifetime of
heartache, and now I know. So - we make progress in life! A smell a sound a colour - and suddenly remember! Or suddenly forget. There is a peculiar whirr/click whirr/click that the elevators make rising inside their steel cages in New York apartment buildings. I had forgotten that! When I heard it again my blood ran cold. Who is the man in the black leather jacket? Is he perhaps an angel? And, if he is an angel, is he a good angel or a bad angel? A man in his mid-fifties, I would judge, stocky, poorly dressed, with hair that stands up like a brush on his head. He waits for me outside on the SchĂśnleinstraĂ&#x;e, sometimes he smokes a cigarette, sometimes he chews gum. He pretends not to notice me at all but wherever I go, he is there. New York is a dangerous place. Everybody knows that. It's in all the guide books, travel agents, friends will warn you, magazine articles make much of it from Paris to Duluth... New York is a dangerous place. Bad Things happen to you there. Bad Things, for
example, happened to me. But in my case it had nothing whatsoever to do with the ethnically diverse delinquents who prey upon visitors. I come from New York, I was born there, into that dangerous place, a tiny helpless infant - think of it! Squalling and bawling in my brand new red-and-white infant skin in a place too dangerous for German tourists. It's enough to make your blood run cold.
The Experience of Snow Crystallised water vapour. Velvet shoes. Gluey bits of cotton wool. Dr. Zhivago on the big screen. Nothing prepares you for the real thing. And then one day suddenly you are in it up to your neck and it's not what you expected, it's not at all how you imagined it, not at all not at all... Frau Holle is making her bed. Shake and shake and shake till the feathers fly all around the little house, then it is snowing in the world above, she says with her terrible teeth. I shook and shook as hard as I
could, I wanted to make the snow but it would not come - in the morning there was not snow but blood in the bed, soaking bright red into white sheets. There was blood on the door on the windows on the table and chairs. There was blood, so much blood where did it come from all this blood? My mother was angry. Blood is hard to wash out! she said, hiding her terrible teeth behind her hand, but I knew they were there. She did not want this troublesome girl child bleeding inconveniently into the bed. I don't want you, she said. I never wanted you. I didn't want to rock your cradle. A fact I only discovered much later: Little girls are not supposed to bleed like that. How was I to know? I wanted to make it snow. Nothing, nothing prepares you for the real thing. I grew up in the tropics, yes, that's right, in a tropical jungle, a pink and green twilight jungle. We had pet tigers bright-faced monkeys slim-waisted Indians at our beck and call. We did not have snow. And then one day!
What is it? I said in a loud voice. At first I simply did not know. Sitting under the green-gold shadows at Engelskirchen with Julio's slim golden arm only inches away from my own. What...is it? How was I to know? It was not at all what I expected. I went to Venice, I nearly died there - of the shock, I suppose, it was a shock after all. I drank champagne till I was drunk in a blue room with a view of the Salute. I didn't know it was going to be like that! Nobody told me. Not my mother. Especially not my mother. Or rather, they told me. Masters of language, poets of long ages had told me again and again but still! Nothing prepares you for the real thing. Suddenly you are in it up to your neck. You are in it way over your head... To look upon that face, just to look once again upon that face, I would give anything, I would do anything... It's cold! you say, surprised somehow, although everyone's told you, you've read it a thousand times. It's light, it's fine as lace, it tickles, it sticks to your eyelids and the
back of your hand, it has no taste it has no smell it's real. Roll themselves naked in the snow Too many deer on thin legs starving Change the colour of their coats to harmonise with the snow Now they are practically invisible to their enemies
I went to France, I sat beside a slow country river and watched the blue barges white swans grey cathedral towers in the rain. None of it mattered, none of it was Julio. Tutto mi spiro rimorso e orror. In a blue and silver room I drank champagne to wash down the pills eighty pills - I counted them - more than enough for one troublesome girl child bleeding from impermissible places, wouldn't you think? Go ahead and die then... Somebody said that to me. I thought I might as well.
But I did not die. Not then, not ever. I am not ever going to die. I awoke in a hospital bed I was too weak to move even so much as a little finger there were wires attached to my chest and bloody bandages wound around my wrists, that's odd, I thought, I don't remember cutting myself, not this time, this time it was pills, I'm sure of it why then these bandages? The room filled with blue Venetian light and the sound of water running in a fountain just outside the window. The telephone began to ring there on the bedside table but I was too weak to answer it a butterfly settled on my bandaged bloody hand, a pale butterfly lemon yellow with tiny black spots one each on the delicate drooping forewings. Set me as a seal upon thine arm, as a seal upon thy heart I am safe and sound, I am going to live forever and ever, and every night I lie down upon a bed of virgin snow.
THE FORMATION OF THE CRYSTALS appears to depend upon a number of factors - the quality of light, the ambient temperature, the number of people in the vicinity and their dispositions towards one another, the sound patterns created by such phenomena as passing streetcars, the feet of horses, the motion of tree branches in the wind, a mechanical organ played at varying speeds, the voices of children, the flight of birds overhead. - Leiermann, F.S., Schneekrystalle, Berlin 1893 Today I was successful in the observation of at least seventeen new crystals. I was also able to make drawings of several of these before they melted completely away. I now believe that the crystals fall into distinct genera, and these in turn seem to occur in harmonic cycles determined by the phases of the moon, the direction of the wind, and the feast days of God's saints. All those days sacred to the Virgin Mother, as well as those dedicated to the Holy Virgins such as St. Agnes, St. Lucy, et cetera, are most favourable to the formation of crystals. On the
feast of St. Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins I saw for the first time the triple-headed crystal or triceratops. I believe it is formed by the simultaneous growth of three crystals that have come together at the moment of birth. They are like diamonds in their brilliance and utter purity, and may represent the three jewels in the crown of a Virgin - Patience, Wisdom, and Chastity. - Olaus Magnus, Archepiscopus Upsalae, Historia Naturalis, Rome, 1555 It was snowing in New York too, I saw it on television. Then it must be snowing on him, I thought. The pure white tasteless odourless jewels of heaven are falling one by one by the billions and billions and every one different upon the sacred head of Julio, upon his eyelids the back of his hand his patient upturned face the shoulders of the coat he wears... * * * * * * * * * * THERE WERE DREAMS in my head - dreams dreams snow and rain and beautiful golden dreams.
I am the melancholy Queen of Spain. For years I have refused to leave my room, a blue room, spacious, handsome, more than comfortable, what reason have I ever to leave this, my own room in the palace? I have everything I need here, I have silk sheets embroidered by the Sisters of the Holy Shroud, I have thick carpets, fur rugs, a good fire in winter, chandeliers of the best blue Murano glass, I have a view of the palace gardens if I care to draw the heavy blue velvet draperies and look outside, which I do not. Why should I look outside? Everything I need is right here in this room... The Queen is ill, they say. The Queen is mad, she will not leave her room. But I am not ill, I am perfectly well. Mad? Perhaps... I have nothing to love. For years I have been locked up inside this room, for years perhaps for centuries, I have sat alone hour after hour before the mirror and watched her. There, in the mirror framed in gold. She watches me, and I watch her, we have a vigil to keep, often the long night through. By day she sleeps, as do I. At first she was young and beautiful, she had however strange eyes, rather too large. Through the
long nights she has changed, yet remained the same. She is no longer young. She is not yet old, she will perhaps never be old. She is ever beautiful. She has dove's eyes, she has remarkably gentle eyes, but they are rather too large, brimming over with pain or is it fear? Her ears are small and fine, the most sensitive parts of a highly sensitive mechanism. The Queen is indeed a highly sensitive mechanism with her fingertips she can feel the coming spring in a single leaf, with the soles of her feet she can feel an earthquake in China, with the tip of her tongue she can taste the blood of an insect that once lit upon the grapes in a glass of blood-dark wine. But with her ears! Take a good look - up close, it's worth the trouble, I promise you. Look closely now at the ears of the beautiful mad Queen of Spain. When she dies surely they ought to be kept as curiosities? Surely they ought to rest on a bed of black velvet inside a wrought gold reliquary behind a little window of frozen glass to astound the sceptical eyes of posterity? They are small and round and white, elegantly furled with a slight point up at the corners fox-like, and very small lobes that struggle under the burden of the Queen's jewels. Unburdened, they
reveal tiny holes that the jewels may be inserted or withdrawn. The Queen had not spoken for many years, she had not left her room in the palace for many years, when Signor Farinelli arrived at court, brought at fabulous expense from the theatres of London and Venice to take part in a desperate experiment. A concert was held in a room adjoining the Queen's apartment; the singer performed one of his most enchanting arias, 'Pallido Il Sole' by the German composer, Hasse. The handle of the door to the royal apartment was seen to turn, slowly turn - the door stood ajar, at first just a crack, then wider, wider, until at last it stood quite open and the Queen was plainly to be seen, a thin figure dressed in blue with a lace veil covering her face. When the singer had finished his aria the Queen slowly put back the veil from her face and approached him. She took him in her arms and kissed him on both cheeks. Now I will tell you something truly remarkable about this Signor Farinelli, something that nobody knows but I. He has Julio's eyes. Dove's eyes, gentle, rather too large, brimming over with a terrible and mysterious pain or is it perhaps fear? Somehow or
other the dreams from my head had made their way into Julio's head, or the other way around, I cannot tell which, but this much is certainly true: That Julio in lace cuffs and a white silk coat, in a white wig that only accentuated the pallor of his fine-boned face, that fragile case of perishable loveliness that I love! That Julio at the very time I dreamt this dream, in a white wig a white face a white silk coat was singing 'Pallido Il Sole' to the melancholy Queen of Spain. The Queen took the singer in her arms and kissed him, she asked what she might do to reward him, she assured him that she would refuse him nothing. And all my treasures at thy feet I'll lay! Because you touched my face once with your hand, because you touched, because you touched, gentle as a mother, my royal melancholy bruised-andbattered secret infant face. Corridas comicas. Do you find this sort of thing amusing? The little crooked legs in pink stockings, the heavy head struggling for balance atop a tiny body, the shock of a withered face where one thinks to see a child, the tiny feet the ring of gold in ear or nostril the grimace of pain or is it fear? The tiny
toreador outfitted in pink and gold miniature finery the arms too short to reach behind the surprising head and some of them are handsome! Would have been men to follow with slow eyes if they had grown. The baby steer bellowing in pain or is it fear? The sweat the dust the blood the stink the cruel laughter the wine and morphine and sausage, the piles of excrement the dances and comic songs, the broken bones, the dreams of love under a woman's skirt, the huge sad eyes that cloud over in pain or is it fear? The screams in the night of pain or is it fear? Some of them can't even wipe their own asses, their arms are so short. Some of them long for women, some of them long for death. Some of them are even handsome, would have been fine men, had they only grown! Do you find this sort of thing amusing? The Queen too must have her dwarf. To remind her of human frailty. She keeps it in a box under the bed, it is very quiet, most of the time it sleeps. When
the Queen is lonely she sometimes opens the box, she sometimes takes it out and dresses it in tiny garments. Now you are a toreador, now you are a nun, now you are the Pope in Rome... Do you find this sort of thing amusing? Neither does the Queen, she is not smiling as she dresses and undresses her living doll, as she helps the tiny crooked limbs into and out of pink stockings. The Queen never smiles, neither does she laugh - she is melancholy indeed. It runs in the royal family. When she is unbearably lonely she sometimes opens the box, she sometimes holds the little one on her lap and sings to it very low - I have heard this from the guards who keep watch day and night outside the Queen's apartment that she sometimes sings to it in the night in a voice low and sweet. She holds the little one on her lap, she caresses the tiny crooked limbs, she waters the infant finery with her tears. Then she puts it back in the box, the box back under the bed. It sleeps peacefully. But sometimes in the still of the night she can hear it breathing and this sound is disturbing to the Queen's rest, for it reminds her of human frailty.
Well. There was something I wanted to say about Julio. That he has dove's eyes. O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs! I said those words once, to Julio. O my dove! Julio did not say anything at all. Julio's eyes are grey as the wings of a dove, they are pale and shimmering as the dawn sky over Berlin. So betimes when I have sat the night through in my chair, when I have sat listening to the snow or the rain, to the soft low music of my dreams, to the screams of pain or is it fear, to the quiet breathing in the box under the bed that reminds me of human frailty when I have sat too long before the mirror in the golden frame or well away from it and then the slow clear light of dawn, pale and shining, looking at me out of Julio's eyes.
Fragments from the Diary of Don Alonso di Paragon, Admiral to Her Majesty the Queen of Spain. Found locked away in a trunk, a leather trunk coated with fine pinkish-white dust found in a tightly locked room in a crumbling palace upon the
blue hills of Spain, found in a trunk at the bottom of the sea, written on paper that had already begun to crumble when first it was written upon, bound in brown cordovan leather stamped in red with the seal of the Royal Spanish Navy, written in pale blue ink that has already begun to fade as I write, much of what I write is already illegible, these parts I shall do my best to amend, I shall rewrite revise invent where necessary, the Reader will please to be patient with me, the story is certainly complicated and will require many re-tellings if we are to arrive at the truth. The Truth. Page One. A delicate pen-and-ink drawing of a ship. What kind of ship? Three masts, fully rigged. A full moon above, or perhaps it is the sun? Below a monstrous sea peopled with huge primeval fish, octopi, sea-dragons. Smooth-cheeked cherubs overlook the scene. We turn the page now. It crinkles ominously but it does not tear. To continue:
7 March. I do not believe that anyone has ever been this far south before. We are passing through a strange country, steep iron-grey rocks on every side and the sun a dim grey flicker on the horizon. The sea is grey and heavy, sluggish ragged uneasy, it sighs in a deep breathless voice that neither ceases nor slackens night and day. By night fires are seen burning upon the hills, the sound of drums, human voices singing or rather chanting. By night flashes of strange lightning, prolonged vertical strips of light that move in a circular pattern about the ship. The sea is suddenly bright for miles around and beneath the surface of the water appear the moving shapes of sea monsters and gigantic fish. In place of the usual thunder, a shrill electronic noise, something between a scream and a musical note, but this is not always the case, there have also been silent manifestations of light. The cold is something terrible. 9 March. We have very little food left, almost no water. There is much sickness among the men, fever and also madness brought on by the total lack of colour in the landscape. We have now been at sea
for one hundred and forty-four years - I no longer believe that we shall ever return to our own country, to our homes. Most likely we shall perish here in this desolation. I hold it as most unlikely that my Lady Queen shall ever read these melancholy pages, ever learn of the devotion to her service on the part of her faithful servant. Strangely enough, I am sure that she is still alive. Impossible that she, my Queen, should ever change, ever grow old, or talkative, ever leave her rooms in the palace. No, impossible, unthinkable. She has entrusted me, Don Alonso di Paragon, with a mission unlike any other in the history of navigation. Go south, she said to me simply that. I have read in a book that there is a golden door, she said. Listen, Don Alonso, my good man, I have seen it in a dream, this door - a golden door, it lies buried among snow and ice somewhere in the deepest south of the world, nothing is deeper than that, she said. A door to the human heart. You must find it for me, Don Alonso, she said. You see how it is with me, I am unable to leave my apartment in the palace. I must sit here before the mirror and keep the vigil, lest the oranges turn pale and drop from the trees before their time, lifeless
gobs of sticky grey inedible mush, lest the pure Spanish blue all drain from the sky through a little little hole - no one can see this hole it is so very little but it was left there by the Angel Gabriel on his way back up to heaven, with a golden pin he pricked the little hole in the sky and all, all will be lost if I neglect my duties for even a single day. The blue will drain out of the sky just like that! she said, and the stars will follow shortly after. You see how it is, Don Alonso, I cannot possibly leave my palace to take ship and sail across the seven seas, always going south, in search of the golden door. The animals would sicken and die, the waters would rise, death in the folds and rotten corn in the drowned fields. Soon mortal men would follow. No, Don Alonso, clearly I cannot go. It is no part of a Lady Queen to embark upon such an adventure. I must squander time as best I can before this mirror. Meanwhile I have my Dwarf to comfort me. It seems that God in His Infinite Wisdom made men in order to serve Woman. This one plays or sings, that one goes in a ship to find a golden door. Another will come when I am dead to pray over my putrefying body a mass for my imperishable soul.
Go, Don Alonso, I have described to you the door, I believe you will find it, she said. I believe I shall, my Lady Queen. Go, and God be with you, she said. Later the same day, or rather, early the next morning. I went ashore with a small party in search of food. The natives of this place, despite their forbidding appearance, have proved to be friendly - or at least, not outright hostile. They are brown beardless black-haired men, their teeth are filed to sharp points, their faces and bodies ominously streaked with red and white paint, despite the ferocious cold they wear no clothing of any kind. They were not interested in finery, weapons, not even gold. Their only wish was to hear us sing. Fortunately I was able to remember a song - something in praise of the Virgin that I learnt as a child. With this they appeared much pleased and I had my reward as they loaded us with strips of a mysterious edible - a sort of dried meat, although I cannot guess at its origin - we have seen no animals on these bare hills. I would have dearly liked to question them as to the whereabouts of the golden door but this was not possible - we are only able to exchange the simplest
of messages. Their eyes around the fire dark and bright as pools of ink, they held their naked spears upright at all times, they seem never to smile. I did not notice any women among their number, nor children either. I suppose we have met up with a party of hunters. But what game? Their greatest treasure is a small bird which they keep in a highly decorated cage covered with a soft grass-cloth. When the cloth is removed the bird sings, briefly, a song of great sweetness. I have never seen such a bird before - it is something like a nightingale, but smaller and more colourful - bright blue the body, black wings and tail, and a red crest upon the head. The natives appear to worship it - at least they knelt before it and chanted what I took to be prayers. Snow falling fast tonight, white on the iron-grey hills, white on the masts, on deck. I pray that the sea does not freeze solid, leaving us stranded in this godforsaken place. 11 March. The sea completely frozen, and covered with snow. As I stood on the deck early this morning I saw a figure approaching the ship, walking easily upon the ice. A dull silver twilight,
shot with beams of bloody red as a reluctant sun touched the new-fallen snow and then this lone figure coming closer, ever closer, it seemed to move with infinite slowness against the vast emptiness, to grow ever larger and more distinct while everything else stood still. His approach across the white field was utterly noiseless, not so much as a single muffled footfall reached my ear. Nor did he leave, that I could see, footprints behind him in the snow. Perhaps the crust was simply too hard. Gradually I was able to distinguish details: a magnificent warrior, erect and strong-limbed, with a mane of black hair like a flag falling to his hips. In his right hand a spear. His appearance at once both fierce and oddly comforting - somehow I knew at once he had come to do us good. He came to a halt about fifty feet from the ship and motioned me to approach. As I set foot upon the frozen sea I felt it suddenly heave under me, apparently not as solid as it appeared. A boisterous wind tore between the ragged cliffs and plucked at my bones - I was afraid. The warrior held up his hand and motioned me to come on, and the wind died away as suddenly as it had come. Still I was
frightened for I had felt the ice move under me. If I dared another step it might give way and I should most certainly drown. A second time he motioned me to come - I shook my head. I looked back at the ship, then again upon the featureless white face of the frozen sea. A third time he motioned, insisting, commanding. I looked into his wild, stern, infinitely tender face, the slanting black eyes, the hair like a flag. Then he smiled - a flash of white fire. 'Fear not! Come!' he said, speaking to me in my own language. His voice was clear and low and inexpressibly sweet - there was something in it I cannot describe, although I have thought it over at some length. It was a voice more felt than heard - I would not even swear that he had spoken at all, I did not see his lips move, yet I heard the words quite clearly in my head and as if from close up, and not shouted across fifty feet of frozen desolation. I was at once buoyed up by that voice - I knew then that I would not fall through the ice. Quickly I covered the short distance - at the last he reached out and took hold of my arm, pulling me towards him. Up close he was somehow familiar to me, and yet I was sure he had not been among the braves of the
previous evening - I would have remembered him. He gave off a powerful, sweet-smelling odour, unlike any I have ever known, mysterious, soothing, and at the same time quickening - for a moment I thought, spring boughs dripping with rain. 'You must leave the sea, your path lies now across land.' He pointed towards the rising sun. 'That way!' he said. 'East, over those hills. You will come to a forest, a dark and terrible place. Do not be afraid, but go on. The forest also has an end. Beyond the forest is - but you will see for yourself. Be steadfast and true-hearted! Only that. It will be enough. You will find the golden door.' 'But...who are you?' I said. Again he smiled, again that flash, like fire. 'Michael,' he said, and with that he vanished. He did not go back the way he had come - he simply wasn't there. I have absolutely no way of knowing whether he was a helpful heathen gifted with mysterious powers who had somehow got wind of our mission, a heavenly apparition sent to guide us, a deceiving demon, or merely the product of my own overwrought imagination. I returned to the ship and entered my cabin to find it filled with this same inexplicable
fragrance of spring. Upon my bed, neatly laid out, was a small golden cross identical to one he had worn round his neck - I remember distinctly to have seen it gleaming there upon the magnificent naked breast. I took it up and examined it - I felt a sudden rush of warmth to the heart, a tenderness unknown to me, a softness and a strength. I put it to my lips, I kissed, I felt upon my lips the warmth of a kiss, a blessedness painful, acute, and unspeakably pleasant at that. 'Michael,' I said aloud, looking about me as if for the first time at the familiar walls of my cabin, the untidy bed with its rumpled red silk coverlet the empty wine glass streaked with red wine the dark burled walls of Spanish cedar the fetid candle-ends the white circle of window the dark mirror in its golden frame the map of the known world... 'Hold me up, Friend,' I said. 'Don't let me stumble, don't let me fall.' I put the amulet most carefully around my neck, next to the skin, and drew my shirt over it quite close.
Meanwhile back in Spain... What is this he has written me? 'A land of ice and fire, more terrible than any I have ever seen. Everything - sea, earth, or sky - is strange. Imagine a frozen sierra, glittering in the midnight sun...' But he says nothing of the golden door. My dreams are not good - of man-eating ghouls wandering blackfaced and gory-mouthed under a midnight sun. I had rather not sleep. Reasonable, under the circumstances. I had rather not eat. The Queen is mad, they say. The Queen will not sleep, she will not eat. But I am not mad. I am simply not hungry. At least, not for anything to eat. I will call my faithful Kammers채nger, I need only to ring this little silver bell and ask for him, and he will come. Yes, he will surely come, no matter the day nor the hour, even in the deepest gulf of the night he will come. Sing for me, please... He will sing for me. It is at once his duty and - I am proud to write it - his delight to sing for me. He has not told me this, not in so many words, but I know it without that. Such declarations are not necessary between us - we understand one another to perfection. Pallido Il Sole, I say. Let us have, by all means, Pallido Il Sole. And
he will sing for me. Or Sulle più belle piante, or Che farò senza Euridice. Sing, my nightingale, sing... In Paris there is a narrow street steep dirty in no way important leading down to the Square Montholon. A boucherie, a yellow plateglass window behind which a selection of mouldering furs that no one will ever buy, empty shops, soiled entryways, nobody ever seems to walk down this street but I. As a child I often lingered in this street, I had been sent to Paris to learn the art of dancing - I heard a nightingale singing there in the dirty little street, nobody heard it but I. What is he doing here, so far from his native woods? Why has he come here to sing his heart out in this steep dirty unimportant street in the heart of Paris? The roar of the grands boulevards does not reach here, the windows and cars and housefronts are all coated with fine black dust, and nobody ever walks here although it leads down to the Square Montholon. A low sort of café on the corner where you may play billiards or baby-foot - I will not venture into such a café - a matched pair of cheap hotels, the poorer sort of papeterie. The heavy green trees all so still the bronze monument to the working girls of Paris the
quiet drunks the shiny brown piles of excrement the empty brown and green bottles in the sun. I have never seen the nightingale, but I have heard him sing, here in this lonely little street, in this lonely Square, and here in my room in the Palace I have heard him, it was four o'clock in the morning, just before dawn, nobody heard him but I. Sing, Nachtigall, sing, ein Lied aus alten Zeiten... The Queen will not eat, they say. The Queen is mad. But what is there to eat? Dripping bloody flesh of murdered animals, sad plants torn from their quiet sleep in the earth, the mother's milk of nursling non-human creatures, the intricate exterior womb for the unmade nightingale? No thank you. I am not hungry. Not tonight. Not for anything to eat. Then Your Majesty will starve, they say. Your Majesty will die. Soon nought will remain of our beautiful Queen but the bones. But bones are beautiful. The most beautiful, and most durable part of the human animal. I would like to have one of your bones, my Love, my Life, my faithful Kammers채nger. Just a little bone, a finger-bone perhaps. From one of those delicate, fine-boned
hands. I will sleep with it under my pillow at night. I might sleep at last with such a memento under my pillow. I know already how it will look: blue-white and fine, hard and smooth, brittle bright and beautiful. Be it but one little bone - I shall know thee. The last time I was in Madrid it was to see Julio at the Villa Real - a small, elegant hotel, the sort of hotel where only rich people stay, or people on expense accounts. Come to Madrid, said Julio, but when I got there he would not speak to me at all, at all. All the way to Madrid in the snow I wondered what he would say to me when I got there but in fact by the time I arrived at the Villa Real I already knew that of course he would not say anything at all. Please come, he said to me on the phone, I am here in Madrid alone I am here without you and I know that soon very soon I shall die, I shall die and have to go - somewhere - alone, alone - without ever having touched your hair. We are born alone and we die alone and in between? Please come to Madrid because I am so alone here without you, he said. And so I got on an airplane - it was snowing in Germany, I wore my fur coat, not the Dior lambskin but the black mink because it is the warmest and
also it looks well, the Queen of Spain must not travel too light. All the way to Madrid through ice storms and fire I wondered what Julio would say to me, but by the time the plane was approaching the Madrid airport I already knew - He will say nothing at all. Because, despite all I have done and no doubt also on account of all I have failed to do - Julio has not yet learned to speak. The lobby was small and close, gold and white, it was like being shut up inside a jewelbox. I rang his room, holding an absurd gold-and-white baroque jewelled telephone to my ear but Julio did not answer. Come my Love, my Life, my Darling, put your head in my lap, let me stroke your pretty golden hair, answer the phone and I will tell you a story, a wonderful story. There was once a Prince, who lived all alone in a beautiful white palace so deep in a dark wood... He did not answer the phone, he came down to meet me in the lobby, he did not say a word to me there in the small bright gold-and-white stuffy jewelbox. 'Thou art a treasure given to me by God,' he said that to me once. And thou art my pearl of
great price, said I to Julio. And I will sell all that I have, I have gone and sold lost destroyed extinguished all that I have and all that I am in exchange for - Thee. The body is a casket of ivory and gold, but Thou art the jewel within. He did not take off his sunglasses. (I did not take off my sunglasses either, for that is a trick he learned from me.) Perhaps he did not look at me at all, I don't know, I don't know, I can't say. I saw that his pretty golden hair is now already all shot through with grey. Julio, I came because you called, I said. Won't you speak to me now, my Julio? I did not say, it was not necessary to say, for the answer was already obvious, had already been obvious several thousand feet above the blue hills of Spain. No. A walking bomb swathed to the eyebrows and that despite the oppressive heat of a Spanish afternoon. If you touch me I will die. If you speak even so much as one small word of endearment to me I will explode into a thousand thousand pieces and send this entire glittering gimcrack jewelbox and you and me and the baffled but curious concierge all hurtling into outer space. If you touch me I will die.
Child child child child child In the warm fragrant evenings we will sit together on the balcony of the royal palace to watch the sun set behind the blue hills. Coffee in tiny cups of bluewhite porcelain, crisp almond cookies, sweet marsala wine. Sharpest thyme and sweetest honeysuckle. Wordless, side by side, in perfect harmony. I in pale blue silk, he in white brocade and heavy, dark gold lace. The blue-white bones of his fingers around the porcelain cup. Darkness gathers, the air grows chill, and fireflies glimmer among the trees. He turns and looks at me with the whole vanished light of evening flashing up in those amazing eyes and I think - Now at last he is going to speak, this is the moment, at last at last! A star trails a bright streak across the violet sky and burns itself to death before it can reach the cool bosom of earth. I went to an ordinary non-jewelbox business hotel by the airport and washed my hair and lay the whole night in a big cold slippery bed I lay shivering with wet hair watching French television to keep off the hand of Death, I did not sleep at all at all. When
it was still dark I got dressed and went down to the lobby, I paid for my room, I sat in a red plush chair and watched a boy in a blue jacket wiping the red marble circle of floor, around and around, a big shiny red circle. You could play Circus here, I thought. As a child I took great delight in the Circus game. I played alone in the small sandy ring behind the pony stalls, the same ring was used for the corridas comicas. Ladies and Gentlemen, your attention please! I am the Ringmaster in a tall hat and gold buttons, I am a dancing bear, an acrobat, a clown, I am the beautiful lady who floats like a star high above the heads of the open-mouthed public, I am a crooked little dwarf riding bareback on a ravenous tiger... I looked at the brochure of all the hotels just like this one all over the world. You can stay at this same hotel in C么te d'Ivoire, in Singapore, in Kuala Lumpur, in Kansas City. At six o'clock I took the minibus to the airport, to get the first flight to Berlin. The minibus was crowded with fat, perfumed Spanish businessmen and their wives, they were very gay, they were laughing all the way to the airport, and two silent Japanese in the very back. I left my love alone there in Madrid. Alone
alone. We are born and we die alone. He is going to sing the Bach, I said that to myself again and again. He is going to sing the Johannes-Passion. At the airport I bought a newspaper and looked for his name among the concert listings, when I saw it there I breathed a sigh of relief. As long as your name is here in tiny smudgy black-and-white print I know that you still exist, you have not yet vanished utterly from the face of this sad earth and left me here alone alone in a universe without you. In Berlin I lay in bed for days I was sick with exhaustion heartache desire whatever it is that makes you want to die but you know that you can not. The night before Julio was to return from Madrid at four o'clock in the morning I awoke very suddenly. Julio is in trouble - I said those words to myself. Only after I had said it did the telephone ring. But this time I knew - He was not going to say anything at all. Help me help me help me Please help me If you love me then help me I am so alone I think I am going to die but I know I can not...
said Julio. What is it about five-star hotels that makes you feel that you want to die? Oh, it is everything - the perfect backdrop, the necessary illusion of complete and useful sacred luxury. I myself once nearly died at the Gritti Palace for example... Because Julio would not speak to me. I was new at the game then. I did not yet realise what a Master of Silence I was up against. I thought, because he did not speak, that he did not love me. Therefore, I wanted to die. I thought - I will die. I swallowed eighty pills. Nevertheless, I did not die. Our silent conversation was just beginning - Oh Thou, my love, my heart, my fatal adversary! Do not die, Julio. Not yet. Come here, child. Let me hold you, thus - tight tight tight tight tight. You see? Nothing bad can happen to you now. You are safe in my arms. Angels are watching over thee, child. Raphael, Gabriel, and Michael, great and mighty angels, warrior angels. Hundreds and thousands of angels, bright and beautiful angels, are all of them watching over you. Close your eyes, my
love, and I'll sing for you, I said. Ein Lied aus alten Zeiten...
Four o'clock in the morning. And this is not the first time. There have been other, similar screams in the night - two o'clock, five o'clock of a dark winter night of the soul in New York for example. I have not forgotten, I am not ever to forget those shrill screams in the New York night / Berlin morning. Now it is four o'clock in Madrid, in Berlin. What sort of telephone - gold-and-white baroque or ordinary black business? A gold-and-white room, a blue room, perhaps even a red velvet room? Did you turn on the light, or can you tap out my number in the dark? Do you know the number by heart? Did you think for a long time before calling, lying there alone in the dark a big cold slippery bed the sheets clammy with sweat (the only odour I long for in the night - the perfume of your sweat), did you lie very still looking up at the ceiling, or did you perhaps toss and turn and wind the damp sweatfragrant sheet about your tender body? Did you perhaps cry real tears or call my name or wonder
what on earth I thought of it all or if I could possibly still love you and possibly ever forgive you after such a virtuoso performance of silence in Madrid? Did you turn on the light? Did you look at my photograph, do you keep it by you? Or have you perhaps torn it up, thrown it away? (I still have your photograph, I could never tear it up, I could never throw it away.) But perhaps you know my face by heart? My face. Is that what made you call? That madonna of delirious and sorrowful mysteries... Or was it perhaps something I said, or something I failed to say? Or was it perhaps nothing to do with me at all but only the darkness of the night the closeness of the room a shadow on the floor beside the bed a creak from the door a whisper a tremor a dream a bit of darkness smudged like a half-killed moth struggling inside the brain, struggling to get out. Nobody else you can call at four in the morning. Only me. (And I have nobody at all.) Did your hand shake, or was it steady? Did you tap out the whole number at once (with a fine blue-
white finger) or did it take you several tries? Was there something you meant to say, something you had thought out ahead of time, and if so - what? Or did you only wish to ring a bell in my house so that I would wake suddenly (but I woke before the bell had even rung, my Julio!) and waking take you in my arms and say: Hush my Baby, my Child, my Love, my Life. Angels are watching over thee. Nothing can harm thee ever again. Now close thy pretty eyes and I'll sing thee a song. Es waren zwei Kรถnigskinder, Die hatten einander so lieb; Sie konnten zusammen nicht kommen, Das Wasser war viel zu tief. After your call I lay awake for hours in the dark, I lay very still, looking up at the ceiling. A nightingale was singing in the courtyard outside my window. What is he doing here in the heart of Berlin, so far from his native woods? Why has he come here to sing to me in the night - ein Lied aus alten Zeiten?
PART TWO – ORPHEUS Che farò senza Euridice? Only the dead never come back. Everyone else you're sure to see again, sooner or later, whether you will or no. On a street corner at midnight, in an empty café on Unter den Linden, getting into a train at the Lichtenberg Bahnhof, sitting two rows behind you on the morning flight to Tokyo suddenly there is your brother's ex-wife, your former lover with baby daughter, your long-lost niece, the man who once conducted your interrogation in a basement room
on the LeichestraĂ&#x;e. Don't bother looking for it on any map, they've changed the name to something less suitable, the new name escapes me entirely, the old apparently no longer exists. But then so many of the places I once knew no longer exist, the entire country where I was born and grew up, my genuine Heimat no longer exists, consigned forever to the Land of Shadows. All these people and many others far too numerous to mention I have seen again, I am in constant danger of seeing again should I venture out from my lair into the brightly lit multicoloured cold and dark streets airports theatres restaurants hotels. Which I wisely do not. And still must I live in daily fear that they will find me out, they will come to me, these highly living people, these voluble nieces and nephews, brothers and ex-lovers, managers and prima donnas, insidious flatterers, interrogators, men in leather jackets, Russian agents, vendors of faded flowers, heroin, illegal cigarettes. Only thou, little Princess, thou comest not. The dead don't come back. You may beat your breast and howl till you are hoarse and call upon the mercy of God and the power of Satan as you like, as many hours as you like, as many many years as you
like. In the morning your sad grey face alone in the dark mirror. 'Mon beau garรงon,' she used to say, laughing, touching my hair. 'Mon beau garรงon.' Nobody would say it now. Your face is ugly as sin and your hair is grey, mon beau garรงon. Alone in the dark mirror that hangs above the enormous black marble mantelpiece in the empty room. No fire in the grate, no carpet on the floor, nothing, just an old chandelier that somebody left behind covered now with spiderwebs and black creeping fungus. In one corner a pretty little clavichord, white and gold, badly out of tune, in another corner a top quality digital sound system. One green velvet armchair in the exact centre of the room. No curtains on the dozen tall windows that look out onto the frozen gardens, no pictures on the walls save those painted by the invisible hand of damp, no face in the mirror but mine. Come back little Princess come back come back come back - I have cried the long night through the winter through the years the many years the many many many come back come back come back to me I miss thee I love thee I love thee I am lost without thee, little Sister. Lost in the wood. Remember how we
used to play? BrĂźderlein und Schwesterlein, together in the magic forest. Don't be afraid, little Sister, take my hand and I'll lead you... Remember the wind in the branches, how it sighed? You were afraid, you hid your face on my breast, here, right here, my skin, my bones have not forgotten thee. Remember the ten thousand green tongues singing in the twilight, and the nightingales, and the fairies' dance? Won't you come back and dance for me a fairy dance as you used to do? No feet so light as these bare upon the forest floor. What's that? You're tired of dancing? You'd rather sleep? Sleep then, my sister, my beauty, my bride, sleep in my arms I'll guard thee the while, I'll sing for thee a lullaby - ein Lied aus alten Zeiten. Mein VĂśglein mit dem Ringlein rot Singt Leide, Leide, Leide: Es singt dem TĂ¤ublein seinem Tod, Singt Leide, Lei - ' Do you know why they call it a mortal sin? Because it kills the soul. Look into my eyes, now in the dark mirror, take a good look and see for
yourself. It's true. I have no soul. She took it away with her when she died. 'You have twilight eyes,' she said. 'D채mmergrauen Augen, just the colour of the dawn sky over Berlin.' It's true, take a look and see for yourself. There is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed. Did you like my song? I was famous once for my singing. People came from all over the world to hear me sing. Pretty girls, old women, rich Jews, men with shaved heads and purple eyelids once stood for hours just to get my autograph, my photograph, to touch for a moment my holy hand. They threw roses at my feet. They worshipped me. They interviewed me on television, not once but many times. Many many. 'I saw you last night, Beast!' she said. 'Have you ever kissed a television screen? It's a bit cold and slippery but not unpleasant...' Do you think she was teasing me? I don't know... She might well have kissed the television screen, she was capable of anything. You see, she loved me. I myself have kissed the straw mat outside her door for the sake of her little white feet. A bit rough and scratchy perhaps but not unpleasant...
She was always teasing me. She was always laughing, smiling at me her impossible smiles. There was nothing hidden when she smiled, everything was revealed. Whatever possessed her to smile at me like that? Me of all people. I love you, she said with her smile. I trust you. Little girl lost in the wood, I trust you to lead me home. Only you, Br端derlein. Nobody had ever smiled at me like that before, nobody smiles like that, only children, and lunatics, and God's angels. She had no right to smile at me like that! It wasn't fair, I was hypnotised by that smile, unable to look away, I would freeze like a poor rabbit caught in the headlights of that oncoming - AH! It wasn't fair. Now if I were to sing nobody would come. My voice is dead, dead as my soul. It sounds a hollow whisper a croak a plop a silent scream in the dead of night. A cracked lyre. A snapped thread. A bit of glass broken in the throat. The Head of the Princess I found it in the garden under a pile of dead leaves. A pale grey morning in early December, I'd been up
the whole night unable to sleep on account of the cold. I wandered from room to room up and down my silent castle. Tomorrow is her birthday - I couldn't stop thinking of that. Do the dead ever come back? Perhaps on her birthday, I thought. I was nervous, I was afraid to sleep, perchance to dream of her face, her smile... I kept out of the bedroom, it was no problem, there are plenty of other rooms in which to wander. Or merely to stand absolutely still listening to the silence. I have never known a place as silent as this. The boards don't creak despite their age and obvious warped condition, the mice don't chatter though I see their tiny shadows in the half-light, the wind never rattles the casements, the rain makes no sound against the windowpanes. My feet make no sound as I go. Would my voice make a sound were I suddenly to speak? I don't know, it's been years since I have spoken. I believe it has been many years, I don't know, I have lost track of the time. 'My Silent Lover' she used to call me and as usual she is proved right in the end. Sometimes I sing in a voice bright and beautiful, 'like the sun coming up,' she said, but that is in another world entirely, that is in another
castle, not this one. There are many castles. Many many. For her birthday I always gave a concert, the music chosen especially to please her. What on earth shall I do now should she decide to turn up on her birthday? I can't possibly sing for her, my voice is dead, do you understand? Dead. There's a box of CD's in the closet, I don't like to look at them, let alone listen, I keep it locked, but tonight I've made an exception. I thought she might turn up for her birthday, she might come, expecting a concert. I thought, I'd better have something ready for her, just in case she turns up. 'Nothing you could give me could please me half so much as your beautiful singing,' she said. That was after the 'Caesar' I sang for her. Or was it after the Bach ? No, it was the 'Caesar', I remember. Her eyes full of tears and her cheeks like flames when I finished the aria my knees were shaking the room spun around I was afraid I was going to be sick. I pushed past the dresser, I couldn't bear to have anyone touch me. I locked the door, then sat with my head on my arm and wept - I don't know why. Something hurt, deep down inside. Her eyes
so soft made me want to cry, made black things, like spiders, crawl around inside me. She was like a spider sometimes, a soft white spider with long long arms and legs they frightened me but her face was perfect like a Princess in a storybook, like the Virgin Mother of God, a face that you saw once in a dream and never forgot. A perfect little face, a neat little head, compact and fine as a flower on its long white stalk. I found it in the garden, my attention first drawn by the antics of a little, lemon-coloured butterfly with tiny black spots on its forewings. I saw it fluttering repeatedly over a pile of dead leaves, and poking about with a stick I found it. Proud as a princess beautiful as an angel under a pile of dead leaves. So you've come back after all! I said, brushing the dirt from her eyes, from her hair. The hair was bound loosely round her head, she often wore it that way to the theatre, I liked it that way, I could see the whole of her neck that way and the gentle little hollow at the base of her throat. I could see her face better too with the hair bound up, the line of cheek and chin like a line of music, a melody at once so graceful, so sublime, so painfully
simple and mysteriously beautiful - What melody is that, you ask? Ah! That's one of our many secrets. But if you can imagine that a song might have a human face, then hers is the face of that song. It's old, you can see that, very old. It must have been lying here a long time under the leaves, many years, many winters, many many. White marble smooth as skin. Italian marble? I suppose. I know nothing of such things, of art and so on I know nothing, I know only music. But this is no deutsches M채dchen, that much I can see for myself. Speaking in strictly musical terms, an aria graziosa. Some Queen or Princess from the sunny southlands, from Italy or Spain, some long ago Princess or Queen, perhaps the Queen of Spain herself, the very same who paid me an incredible sum all in pure gold ducats to come to her castle in Madrid and sing for her. Because she is so sad... The Queen is sad! She refuses to leave her rooms in the palace. For years she has stayed shut up in there with the doors locked, the curtains drawn, no one can persuade her to come out, not the King, not the Archbishop, not the Grand Inquisitor,
not even her favourite dwarf. It seems I'm the last hope. Everybody's counting on me. It's a long journey to Spain. The Queen sent her most trusted friend, the Admiral Don Alonso di Paragon, with instructions to bring me back at any cost. We went on the wings of the wind, travelling by coach, by ship, on the backs of mules, by chauffeured limousine, by private jet. She was waiting for me in the lobby of the hotel, wearing a black fur coat and a pair of dark glasses over her living eyes. I fell to my knees before her, I took her hand and pressed it to my lips. Her hand was trembling, cold as death. 'Start not, much-injured Princess,' I said. 'Pallido Il Sole,' she said in a whisper. 'Please, let us have, by all means, Pallido Il Sole.' I carried her into the house and set her down on the empty mantelpiece. I noticed the little lemoncoloured butterfly had settled on her hair. It rested there, beating its pale wings in time to some inaudible music of its own. 'Just a moment, Your Majesty,' I said. I found the right CD and put it on the machine - Good I had thought of it ahead of time! But would it still play, here in the silent castle?
I wasn't sure. I pressed the button and waited for the definitive whirr/click then to be followed by my rendition of Pallido Il Sole. Nothing. Then I remembered, I had shut off the power at the generator. To discourage me from too-frequent use of the Room. I went down to the basement and fumbled among the rats and got it working again. My Voice, suddenly raised from the dead, a loud unruly ghost in the vast silence. 'Tutto mi spira rimorso e orror!' Is this really what she likes? It sounds awful to me... I think I'd better shut it off. Then I looked over at the head on the mantel and saw the living eyes filled with tears, the soft lips opening in an impossible smile - O meine Prinzessin! A smile be my reward.
Reading in the Dark Sometimes to pass the long hours I read in a book. I've only one book, but it's enough, I'm not anxious for more. It's quite a nice book, full of useful information and many pictures. The Child's Complete Encyclopaedia, edited by A.R. Crossfield, London 1946. I don't know how it got here. Somebody must
have left it behind. Perhaps there was an English officer quartered here after the war, an officer with a wife and a little boy. The book was the boy's but he's forgotten it, left it behind, I can read it now if I like, the boy won't mind. There's probably a picture of that same butterfly that's come in from the garden. Yes, here it is: Zerene Eurydice. Black outer half of male forewing encloses yellow 'dog's head' tinged with light purple iridescence. In the female the ground colour is pale lemon with a black upper forewing cell spot. Wing span : 2 - 2 1/2 inches. Favourite food: flower nectar. Habitat: remote forests of oak or pine, see page 472, Magic Forest. I turn to page 472, this is what I find: Magic Forest, aka 'Zauberwald': A land of untold riches, gold and silver, copper, iron, manganese, emeralds, rubies, untouched for centuries though known to be lying hidden in mountains and ravines. But the fairy folk who hold sway over this land have a reputation for unrivalled malice.
Here's a map - you can see the fairy country, it's got to be this one here with all the mountains. The yellow and brown mean mountains, the green is for forests. Do you want to see where my castle is? Wait, I'll show you. Here! That's it, right here, here's Mark Brandenburg, here's the village where I get the post, and this here is my forest, and this is my castle here - I think. Hereabouts anyway... There are a lot of these old castles in east Germany, they don't belong to anyone anymore, they're falling apart like everything else, nobody wants them, they're too big and expensive to keep for a family, too run down and out of the way for hotels and conference centres. If you want one the government will sell it to you for the price of one German Mark eine Mark, and it's all yours. That's how I got this one. The vast forests shelter many wild animals: fox, wolf, and bear, unicorn, sable, mink and marten, the savage lynx and the leopard, the rare white deer and the ferocious Ussurian jungle tiger, the nightingale and the elusive Eurydice butterfly.
Remember the magic forest, little Sister? Remember the palace where we once lived, side by side, good and happy children? A beautiful white palace, so deep in a dark wood. My father was King over all the surrounding countryside, over black forests and blue hills and beautiful golden valleys where the smoke rose up every night from the quiet villages; your father was King over glittering seas, over bright fish and waving waterweeds and the gentle mermaids who played to him every night upon golden harps and sang their strange sweet songs in the great coral palace under the sea. And while we were still but tiny children our fathers, who were the greatest of friends, decided upon our betrothal, and so you were brought here, to the palace deep in the wood, to be my sister and my bride. Remember how it was then? We slept side by side together in a golden cradle, we learned to walk and talk together, we learned to sing together, the old old songs that our Nurse sang for us every night in our little room high up in the palace. We wandered hand in hand through the forest, under trees taller than cathedral towers, and heard the nightingales singing, and watched the fairies' dance. We had a special place
all our own - do you remember? A great oak tree, we played for hours beneath its shadow, and when we were tired out from our play we lay down in each other's arms upon a bed of moss and watched the green-gold leaves high above our heads fluttering and flittering like live birds in the twilight, and the bits of broken sky blue as silk, peeping out between their wings. Then I kissed you on your pretty red mouth, and my heart, my very heart was there inside your warm, soft little body lying next to mine, and your heart flew, like a bird, out of your baby breast and lodged itself here, inside me. At that moment I knew, as I have never so fully known anything since, that, come what might, we could never be parted. Then came fire and the sword, the beautiful palace was burnt to the ground, father and mother and friends all murdered, even our favourite dogs were slain and lay weltering in their own blood. They led you out of the smoking ruin, a rope around your little white neck as if you were an animal, a little white deer you might have been, dressed as you were only in your white nightdress, not even shoes on your feet. You stood there barefoot in the
snow, the smoke going up in a thick black column behind you and you kissed me on the mouth and said - Do you remember, little Sister, what you said to me that morning before the dying fires of our infant happiness? VergiĂ&#x; mich nicht! My fingers are stiff with cold my eyes ache from reading in the dark and now on the frozen windowpane the frost has formed into ever so many flat white spiders that scrabble up and down up and down the glass looking for somebody to bite. They took you away, far far away, across the sea, across the world. I thought - I will never see my little Princess again. Only in dreams every night your face so white, and your voice barely a whisper, like smoke: VergiĂ&#x; mich nicht!
Amor in the Garden Suddenly something shattered the silence into a thousand tiny fragments, shattered the window and bounced across the floor, coming slowly to rest in the exact centre of the room. A child's red rubber ball. I took it up and examined it - a perfectly ordinary ball as far as I could see, there wasn't much
light left in the room. I bounced it a couple of times experimentally, it was a little flat. Only after this did it occur to me to look outside and see if anyone was there who might have thrown it. Yes, there was someone - a boy was standing about a dozen feet away, looking in at me through the broken window. A perfectly ordinary boy, as far as I could see. Perhaps six or seven years old. Dressed in short trousers and a T-shirt, that was a bit unusual given the cold. He neither moved nor spoke but regarded me steadily through the broken window. I thought I'd better go out into the garden and have a word with him. I can't have strange boys prowling about the premises and smashing windows - it won't do at all. It doesn't suit me at all. Although I'm fond of children, actually, very - but this is no place for a child, not this garden, not now. I'll send him away, I thought. I'll just explain to him, nicely, that he's not to play here. Then I wondered if he might perhaps be the English Officer's boy, come back for his book? In that case I would have no right to send him away - he was here first, after all. I'd have to give him back his book too, assuming that's what he wants. And I haven't finished reading it
yet. Maybe he'll let me keep it a while longer if I allow him to play in the garden... Outside in the garden the snow was now violet, the stones and naked branches deep purple in the twilight. The evening star was shining overhead. The boy watched my approach in silence. I had the ball with me - I threw it and he caught it neatly. 'The gods have taken pity on your plight,' he said. 'You will be permitted to cross the dark river and bring her back. It was your singing that did it.' 'My singing? But I haven't sung anything in years...' The boy motioned vaguely towards the house. 'They heard it,' he said. 'We all heard it. Early this morning - you woke the gods with your singing, you made them weep, all of them. The Furies, the Fallen Angels, everybody. They've decided to make an exception and open the Gates of Hell, just this once.' He threw the ball - I caught it neatly. I noticed he was standing barefoot in the snow. 'That wasn't exactly me,' I said. 'That's a recording I made years and years ago. Who are you anyway?'
'Amor,' he said. 'Do you want her back or don't you?' 'Of course I want her back!' 'Maybe you'd better hear the conditions first.' 'You promise me Eurydice and think I would hesitate?' 'You'd better hear them.' 'Are they so very difficult?' I threw the ball. 'Very.' He caught it neatly. 'The whole time you're down there you're not allowed to speak to her, not even one word. You're not allowed to touch her either.' 'How am I supposed to get her back if I'm not allowed to speak to her? Not even to take her hand...' 'You can sing, can't you? That's allowed,' he said. 'What's it like down there?' 'Wait and see,' he said, and threw the ball. I caught it neatly. When I looked again he was gone. I searched carefully for his footprints in the snow; I didn't find any. But I still had the ball.
Death Pays a Visit 'What does he look like?' 'Who?' 'What does he look like?' 'What does who look like?' 'Death. What does he look like?' I was sitting late over breakfast when the doorbell rang. Who on earth can that be? I'm not expecting anyone... Whoever it is, I don't want to see him. Maybe if I just sit here quietly he'll go away. The bell rang again and again, it rang loud and long, so much sound was unbearable to me in the habitual silence. If I don't answer that damn bell it's going to go on ringing and ringing all day and all night, I won't be able to bear it. I wish he would go away. Who on earth can it be? I'll have to go to the door and tell him to leave me in peace, that I don't give interviews anymore, that I don't want anything either, nothing at all, no newspapers or magazines, no Universal Encyclopaedias, no timely warnings in regard to the End of the World, nothing. Just leave me in peace, please.
I went upstairs to get a look at him out of the first-floor window. A man in his mid-fifties, of medium height, stocky, hair black mixed with grey standing straight up like a brush on his head. He was dressed in a battered black leather jacket, a pair of shiny black trousers, pointed and cracked black shoes. His hands were in his pockets, and he shuffled back and forth on my doorstep in an effort to keep himself warm. He looked up at my face in the window and motioned to me hastily with a thick hand to come down. But I know that face, I know this man - his name is Orlowsky, or at least so he calls himself most of the time. We had certain dealings with one another in Berlin. He was made known to me through a private detective as a man without any particular scruples. His main line of work is, I believe, the smuggling of young women across the Polish border to supply the brothels of Berlin. But he's also available for the occasional contract killing, and very quiet, very reliable, I can testify. I opened the door and at last the bell stopped that insane jangling against the silence. We stood staring at one another through the white clouds of
our agitated breath. I saw I was going to have to speak first. 'Yes?' 'I understand you have a job for me,' he said. 'No. No job. Go away. I've certainly no job for you at all. Now please just go away.' It was the exact same thing he had said the other time, the first time we met. Does he say the same thing every time, to all his - clients? We met by appointment in a bar near the Tiergarten. A man in pink feathers was singing into a microphone: 'Mein blondes Baby, VergiĂ&#x; mich nicht!' 'My name is Orlowsky. I understand you have a job for me.' He spoke with a thick Russian accent. He ordered a vodka. He pressed his thick hands around the glass and leaned across the table. It was then that I noticed that his hands were covered with tiny green-gold scales. 'How much?' 'You pay me twenty-five now, another twentyfive after. Five thousand all together.' 'Mein kleines baby, Tu so was nicht!' 'That's not enough,' I said. 'I can't let her go for so little. She's all that I love in this world.'
Orlowsky shrugged and drank off the vodka. 'Look, what's it worth to you? Name your price,' he said. 'Du ahnst ja gar nicht, was du mir bist Weil deine Seele mein Baby ist...' sang the man in pink feathers. 'Make it ten thousand,' I said. It ought to have been more, I know, it ought to have been oh millions at least. What shall a man give in exchange for his soul? But ten thousand's all I can afford. I'd already been paying out pretty heavily for the detectives. I gave him the photos and the videotapes, I gave him the name and the address, I gave him the unlisted telephone number. 'Is there anything else you need?' I said. 'It's enough.' 'And she won't feel any pain? You promise...' 'No pain.' 'How are you going to...' 'Leave it to me. No pain,' he said, stowing the photos and tapes away in the depths of his leather his jacket. 'VergiĂ&#x; mich nicht!' sang the man in pink feathers.
She died in her sleep she died of a gunshot wound to the head fired at close range she died instantly she felt no pain it is inconceivable that she felt any pain she died in a fall from the fourth storey window of her apartment on the SchĂśnleinstraĂ&#x;e she must have died instantly all her bones were broken in the fall smashed like glass into a thousand pieces her body was found floating naked in the icy water of the Teltow Canal she died run over late at night on the Sonnenallee the streets were icy the driver was going too fast she was struck down and killed instantly it is certain that she felt no pain she died a painless death under the wheels of a train in the FriedrichstraĂ&#x;e Bahnhof do you think she felt any pain or was death instantaneous under the wheels of a train she died in a fall from the thirty-fourth floor of the Forum Hotel on Alex earlier that evening she had been to the casino the croupier remembered her face she had played blackjack and won he said someone had broken the window with a heavy instrument a hammer or something like that then she fell thirty-four storeys she must have been dead before she hit the ground she must have been falling
very fast no time at that speed to feel any pain but perhaps fear she died in a fall from the Mรถnchberg just outside the casino in Salzburg a night of snow and high wind perhaps she lost her footing in the dark in the snow the casino is closed at that time of year nobody on the Mรถnchberg at all and then she fell she died at the Gritti Palace in the rose blue flush of a midsummer morning they carried the body in a palanquin down the black and white sinuous marble stair to the waiting boat so alive kicking on the bright green water she died with a green-gold feather in her mouth with roses in her hair with her grey-green eyes wide open she died expensively dressed in the best pink and white carnation skin she died in the bathroom that night in New York she had dropped the bottle of shampoo broken glass everywhere blood and glass and white foam turning pink now all her bones were broken all over the bathroom floor her head broken against the black and white marble floor because she had dropped it she broke it she screamed and screamed so her father came into the bathroom and broke her head against the tiles and broke every one of the bones inside her skinny naked twelve-year-old pink and
white carnation body every last one and now she is all broken all dead dead-dead deep down inside and outside dead and that is how she died. Do you want to know how she died? Leave it to me, he said. I'll break every bone in your body, he said. I'll fucking murder you, he said. Leave it to me. Daddy's sorry, he said. Daddy didn't mean it Daddy's sorry Daddy loves you come back little Princess come back come back come back and I'll sing for you the old old songs we used to sing only please please please come back. Too late! The dead don't come back. A little green-gold snake. Hiding there under the fallen leaves, under our special tree, how was I to know? It might have been there for a long long time, even from the beginning, we would not have known. As she danced for me on her little white feet in the green-gold twilight a snake came sliding from under the leaves and bit her on the ankle and so she died. Just like that.
Sometimes in Dreams I am somewhere deep under the earth but also in our forest, it's our forest and it isn't, it's different somehow, deep under the earth now. It's winter, the ground is covered with snow, the branches of the trees, both little and great, are all of them covered with snow, and the sky very bright and clear and hard like glass. Although I don't see her, I'm quite certain nonetheless that she is somewhere nearby, that any moment now she will appear. I go on through the wood, calling her name, and my voice comes back to me, a clear echo from every side as if the many trees had tongues and were all calling out to her. I begin to run through the wood, still calling, always calling her name, my hands stretched out before me, I'm sure she is very close now but I still can't see her, it's as if I were partially blind for I see the wood, the trees, the sky all quite clearly, only I don't see her. And then I stumble over something, some unevenness in the ground, something lying hidden under the snow. I get to my feet a little dazed, I had been running so fast, I fell rather hard,
and I look down and see a little white deer lying dead in the snow. The snow around the body is stained red with blood. The purple eyes are open, looking at me. When I was a little girl, she said, I sometimes used to dream of a dancing bear. What a wonderful bear! A big brown bear and the best dancer in the world we danced together all night long, waltzes mostly, but also cha-chas, the tango. There was a palace all of glass, deep in a dark wood, it's always winter there and the trees all covered with snow, but inside the palace were palm trees and big red flowers. An orchestra played all night for just the two of us, we danced and danced the whole night long. I wore a white dress with a wide soft skirt, just right for dancing - it would unfurl like an angel's wing when my bear spun me around and around and around and around and around Say she died of dancing. Say she died of dreaming. If you could die of pain, I would be dead, she said.
I remember the dance. The white dress and the little green-gold snake you wore around your ankle. 'Take it off,' I said, 'before it bites.' 'It doesn't come off,' you said. 'Only when you die. Then it goes off of its own accord.' But where does it go then? Where? The trees all covered with snow. Somewhere, not far off, the whine of a chainsaw. We looked at one another through a thin cloud of agitated breath. There were little dots of ice in his moustache, in his hair that stood up like a brush. 'Didn't expect to see me again?' he said. 'No. Yes, perhaps. I don't know. People turn up...' 'It happens,' he agreed. 'Look, the kid sent me. He says you have a job for me, that you want the girl back. It's not generally in my line. I mean, strictly speaking, it's a one-way ticket, you know? But apparently this time there's to be an exception orders from on high. Maybe it's the famous exception that proves the rule that you hear so much about.' 'What rule is that?' I said.
'That the dead don't come back.' We stood looking at one another, the chainsaw was coming closer, I thought I saw something moving among the trees, I turned my head and it was gone. 'Deer,' he said. 'Starving out there this time of year, poor bastards. You sure you want to go through with this? It's going to be hell down there. The kid explained to you thoroughly the conditions?' 'You promise me Eurydice and think I can be scared off? Enough talk. Let's get going.' He shrugged. 'It's your funeral,' he said. 'Have you got a mirror?' 'Come on inside.' Through a Glass, Darkly It was like falling into ice cold water. Death took me by the hand, I felt a sudden chill at the heart as if he gripped me - there, and then I fell into a pool of black water icy cold. I saw the room spin around and then reverse itself - the green chair on the ceiling, the chandelier sprouting from the floor. The windows went dark as if night had fallen, then flashed into sudden brightness, then chased one another, faster
and faster, a carousel of light and dark oblongs - I felt sick. As a child I was often sick on a carousel, I hate being spun and twisted, I fell to my knees. There were faces in the windows now, looking in hundreds, thousands of faces, men and women in evening dress all watching me, all waiting for me to get up and do - something. Sing, of course. A throbbing pain in my head - I touched my hand to my forehead, it came away bloody. I must have cut myself going through the mirror. I thought - I am going to be sick in front of all these people. I lay face down on the ground and shut my eyes. When the spinning inside my head had stopped I opened them again. Orlowsky had disappeared. I was alone on a bare stage in an empty theatre, and the houselights were up. Not completely alone however. A light rustling sounded acutely in the acoustically fine-tuned stillness - I turned my eyes in the direction whence it had come. A small figure, dressed in white, sat alone at the back of the parterre, nearly invisible in the shadow of the overhanging balcony. 'Eurydice?' I said, experimentally. My voice was sudden and loud the echo came back to me not once, but again and
again, growing ever louder with each repetition. The naked plaster giantesses that sprout from the wall above the second balcony took up the cry, flourishing their huge parasols like spears; the cherubs on the ceiling were chanting it in dupletime: Eu-ry-dy-ce, Eu-ry-di-ce! Now the entire salle was filled with a merciless din of reverberating echoes. I clapped my hands over my ears, I sought to flee, but encountered yet more figures advancing from the wings. A veritable army of oversized plaster females, grimacing and shouting, their heads covered with hissing serpents, were blocking all exits from the stage. Over their heads they twirled live torches, wands, and curious old-fashioned guitars, all the while chanting in their abominable voices Eu-ry-di-ce! coming closer and closer... They had nearly surrounded me now, only towards the empty salle was the way still open. I ran to downstage centre and peered out into the red half-light. The little figure had advanced, and was now sitting in the very first row, only a few feet away across the fathomless, smoking darkness of the orchestra pit. A little girl, six or perhaps seven years old. She wore a white dress, and a little
circlet of flowers like a crown upon her dark hair. She sat very grave and still, watching me with her soft eyes, her hands in her lap - she was holding something in her hands, and slowly turned it round and round without looking at it. I crawled to the very edge of the pit. I held out my hands, imploring her. She looked ever deeper into me with her living eyes and then, quite suddenly, just like that, she smiled at me - just as she used to do! then got lightly to her feet - she leaned across the pit and tossed it onto the stage, that thing she had been turning over in her hands. A little white flower. I snatched it up eagerly and, as I turned to thank her, she vanished, just like that. 'Eurydice!' I cried again. And all hell trembled and sighed as from every plush red corner, from the darkly glittering caves overhead and behind and below the anguished cry of my aching heart resounded: Eurydice! And now the whole began once again to turn, faster and faster, caverns opened at my feet, over my head, dark mirrors alight with shadowy images: rows of empty seats, a snowy forest, a brightly lit corridor lined with identical grey-green doors, men and women in evening dress... The Furies closed in, the
black snakes writhing and spitting upon their horrible heads, I had just time enough to hide the flower in the pocket of my old leather jacket. Then the lights went out, they seized me, hoisted me high into the air, and carried me off stage. I had no idea where they were taking me.
Meanwhile in Paris Today I visited the opera house at Bastille. After the usual run-through of theatrical back-spaces yawning rehearsal stages, storerooms crammed with pasteboard visions, the snake-armed trees of a magic forest jostling gimcrack gold-lacquered thrones, the head of Mephistofeles on a platter, and a view of Old Vienna in sharp perspective - we had to wait for a while in the wings for something to happen, something to be moved or finished. I stood a little apart from the group, looking up into the vast darkness overhead criss-crossed with narrow catwalks and glittering here and there with blue and white spotlights, then down at the thick, twisted mass of electrical cables underfoot. It was very quiet
- people tend not to chatter in the dark. Even our guide Pantalon was reduced to a temporary unwonted silence. I listened as hard as I could to this intermittent multi-coloured theatrical silence. This is what he hears, I thought, these curious clangs and quavers and muted cries in the dark. And then I heard it - welling up inside me like a pain, the deep swell of the orchestra tuning, the final crescendo and then the hush as the audience settles, a quick round of applause for the conductor. My heart was pounding, my mouth was dry, I felt in my pocket to be sure it was still there, right there where I could touch it, the white flower. I thought of her face (my face, mine) thought of her out there, waiting for me. And I took a deep breath, and then the music - that tense, jagged annunciation of tragedy and I stepped out from behind the wings and sought her upturned face and I looked into her eyes and saw - No, I don't know that. I don't know what Julio saw. When I came out of the opera house people and cars and bright blue sky and small white clouds all spinning round and round the slim central shaft with its dancing golden god - it was enough to make anyone dizzy. A woman was sitting on the curb at
the big intersection Bastille - Beaumarchais. She wasn't begging, she was just sitting, huddled together, with her head down on her knees. She had clearly had enough. Enough reality! Enough! Me too, I've had enough and more than enough. Still, I am not going to sit down on the street - not yet. Julio might need me, after all. Julio might come for me in the night, in a dream for example, or he might turn up one day outside my door to look once again with those twilight eyes... I wish I could see him. I wish I could touch him. I wish an angel would come down from heaven and tell me that he's going to be all right. Healed, like the centurion's servant. It seems I still wish for many things. Waiting to pay for a picture in a copyshop on the rue St. Antoine (a picture of an angel with pale yellow butterfly's wings I'd found in le Figaro) suddenly that prickle at the back of the neck, I turn my head and you are there, just outside the plateglass window, standing in the pouring rain in your sunglasses blood-soaked leather jacket grim inevitable flesh - blink and you're gone now I know you will follow me to the ends of the earth follow
me beyond the grave I might just as well never have left Berlin at all there can be no escape for this love is strong as death, strong as fear, hört niemals auf... Riding the métro out to St. Germain-des-Prés a blind girl playing Chagrin d'Amour on the accordion. Ein Lied aus alten Zeiten! Remember, little Brother, how you first twisted my heart with that one? 'Chagrin d'amour dure toute la vie...' In that case it would seem we are just beginning... I wanted to see the tower of St. Germain-desPrés. Because once upon a time I was actually in love with this tower and, like many people who have been disappointed in love, I thought I'd just pay a quick visit to see if anything remains of my previous passion. I sat at a table outside the Deux Magots, drinking white wine and glancing up at him out of the corner of my eye. But you're only a pile of stones! I said, indignantly it seems. I had not known that. Julio taught me that. Because you looked back, you loved me back, little Brother! And with a single glance from those twilight eyes all the stones of Paris, of Venice, of kingdoms past present and to come melted into meaningless minerals. You loved me back.
I sat at a table drinking white wine and shivering in the dark (Paris is not warm in May) No point in being angry, I thought. It's only a pile of stones. It's your own dumb fault, I thought. As I got up to go I was intercepted by an African in a dark blue gown embroidered with the sun moon stars in golden thread. 'The love of Christ means give to the poor,' he said. 'It certainly does,' I said. 'Vous avez raison, Monsieur.' The Land of Shadows I didn't know where they were taking me. Things spun around, I could no longer see, a shadow covered my face. Mysterious clangs and quavers, as of something metallic being opened, a sound of water lapping - a river? the sea? and then the repetitive shriek of a siren, and then - nothing. I must have lost consciousness for a while. Awake to a sensation of intense, burning cold. Prone on my back, strapped to a narrow table, unable to move my arms or legs, only my head had been left free. They had taken away my clothes. I was clad only in a short white hospital gown. Blue and white spotlights shone down from overhead,
causing me to squint, but most of the room lay in shadow. I turned my head this way and that, trying to form some idea of my whereabouts. A small windowless room, empty save for the table on which I was lying. The walls were covered with white tiles, soiled here and there with splashes of blood. A row of rusty iron hooks, suitable for hanging carcasses. I was unable to see anything of the ceiling - the lights were too bright for that - nor of the floor. No door anywhere in sight, but there may be one behind my head, I thought. Or there may be a secret door hidden somewhere in the walls, or even a trapdoor in the floor or ceiling. I didn't like the idea of a door directly behind me, someone might come in without my knowing, I thought, someone might even be there right now, watching me... I strained my head and neck backwards as hard as I could, trying to get a look at what was behind me, but I couldn't see much, I was strapped too tight. The smell of blood and offal, like an abattoir. The white silence and the cold eating noiselessly into my flesh. I have often heard tell that hell is a place of unquenchable fire, but it is not so at all. Hell is this cold, this silence. I felt the absolute
impossibility of continuing for another moment in this silence. I opened my mouth, I called, I entreated, I screamed - not a sound although I could feel the muscles quivering in my throat, in my chest. I lifted my head and pounded as hard as I could against the table with the back of my skull - I felt the sharp, rhythmical cracks of pain, again and again, but still the silence remained unbroken. There must be a way, I thought, a way out of this silence, there must. There was something... If only I could think, it's impossible to think at all with these lights boring into my eyes. Even if I shut my eyes they're still there burning up the inside of my head. I wonder what they've done with my clothes? And the flower - is it still there in my pocket? Where could they have put them, there's nothing here in this room. There's something I'm supposed to remember to do, something... I closed my eyes and thought as hard as I could. Concentrate! On the insides of my eyelids appeared the double image of a small boy. 'You're allowed to sing,' he said. 'Sing? I'm supposed to sing like this, strapped to a table?'
'A horizontal position is beneficial to voice production. You'll find the diaphragm naturally relaxed.' 'Very funny. But what if I don't feel like singing...' 'It's up to you,' he said. 'You said you wanted to go through with it.' 'Maybe if I could just have my clothes back?' The boy shook his head. 'It's up to you,' he said again. I opened my eyes and once more surveyed the grim little room. Nothing, nobody. But she must be here somewhere, I thought. She's probably frightened, wondering what's happened to me, why I don't come for her. Perhaps if I sing, she'll be able to hear me, then she'll know that I'm trying to get to her. I'll try to convince these people, whoever they are, that I have to get to her, I have to, I must... I opened my mouth and began to sing, and just like that the silence was broken, with a great resounding musical smash! like a thousand glass orchestras shattered in one blow, and I heard my Voice, once more bright and beautiful, soaring like a white bird into the outer darkness. Deh placatevi con me...
The boy Amor appeared at my bedside and loosed my bonds. He put a cautionary finger to his lips, then held something out to me - a letter. 'This just came for you,' he said. Inside was a postcard - a photograph showing a canal of pale grey-green water, along the quay a line of crumbling brick and marble palaces, and in the distance a little humpbacked bridge. Someone was standing alone on the bridge, but the figure was altogether indistinct. Behind the bridge the sky was broken by the gentle thrust of a grey-green dome, a pair of baroque towers - I recognised Venice immediately. I turned over the card - a telephone number was written on the back in a hand well known to me. 'I've got to get to a phone,' I said. The boy pointed mutely to an open trapdoor in the floor - I hadn't noticed it before, occupied as I was with the letter. 'Where are my clothes?' I said. He continued to point to the trapdoor. I drew close and peered down into the opening. It was very dark, but I thought I could see a glimmer of light at the bottom. A narrow steel ladder led from the opening straight down. I looked back at the boy. He was watching me intently, his small hands in his pockets.
'Don't be afraid,' he said. 'It's not really all that bad once you're down there.' 'And Eurydice?' But he had vanished again, just like that. I was beginning to get used to it. Well, here goes, I thought. It's now or never, I thought. Besides, I can't very well stay here forever, I'd freeze to death for one thing. Here goes then. Let the dark gates open! Give me Eurydice or give me death! I put the postcard between my teeth and began to climb downwards into the dark. It was a long way down. I came at last to the bottom and a low, narrow opening onto a brightly lit corridor - rows of identical grey-green doors, several cupboards, a snack machine, a telephone booth. A telephone booth! Nobody in sight. I opened the cupboards hastily - mops and brooms, blood and bandages, a severed finger, and yes - here under a pile of dirty linens my clothes. I dressed hurriedly and felt in the pocket of my jacket - the flower was still there. Then I entered the telephone booth and set the card with the number before me on the little ledge. There were instructions written up on the booth in several languages. Phone more easily! All
major credit cards accepted. Well, I've got one of those right here. So here goes. I dialled the number on the card. 'Ospedale degli Innocenti,' said a woman's voice. I asked for her, speaking slowly and clearly in English. The woman said something in very rapid Italian which I did not understand. Then the sound of a telephone ringing, six times, then she answered. 'Hallo?' she said, her voice sounded weak and very far away. I opened my mouth to speak, I tried to speak, to tell her not to worry, that I was coming for her, that I was already on my way. I opened my mouth to speak, I tried, I tried as hard as I could! But I was unable to utter a sound. 'Hallo? Is anybody there?' she said. She sounded frightened. Don't be frightened, little Princess, it's only me! Then she made her voice all soft and said 'Julio, is that you? Where are you?' But I was unable to utter even one small sound to console her. I could feel her waiting there on the other end of the line for my voice and I wanted to speak to her and - I could not. So I hung up. I stood quite still in the brightly lit glass booth reading the instructions in several languages. Phone
more easily! Wählen Sie bitte nach dem Ton! Décrochez, introduisez la carte, numérotez, parlez... My heart was pounding, my mouth was dry, my breath was coming and going in great gasps as if I had run a race. You did it again, Idiot! I raised my arm and smashed with my elbow through the glass and drew my wrist along the jagged edge as hard as I could. I watched with a dazed, savage joy the blood well up and cover my hand and trickle down my arm, soaking slowly, invisibly into the black leather sleeve of my jacket. Idiot Idiot Idiot. Go ahead and die. Then I sank down in the corner of the booth and put my head down on my knees and wept.
Meanwhile Get into the boat, said Michael. Now? I said. It's early still... Michael didn't answer, but held the boat steady on the bank and held out a hand to me so that I had to take it, I had to get in. It was still dark, but I thought I could see a little bit of light in the sky, over the far shore. The water black and rippley, sloshing up against the sides of the boat and over
the glistening shingle. A little bit back from the river bank were trees, ghostly, wreathed in mist, and the birds were just beginning to sing. Sweet melodies, plaintive in the dark. Out on the river the air was cold. Michael rowed steadily - plish plosh plish plosh the little black rills running off the oars. I sat in the stern and watched him. He wore a white garment and his face shone like a full moon, lightening the air around us. Once in a taxi caught in heavy rain, smack in the middle of the Tiergarten on a crackling blue and purple August evening. The air icy cold and the rain coming down in black streaks, beating against the windows of the cab - I was on my way to the Deutsches Theater, Julio was waiting there to sing for me, I had given my word, I will come, I said, You can count on it, I said, and now this impenetrable rain, this mass of tangled metal monsters frozen under icy water in the Tiergarten - we had not seen each other for such a long time! Months and months years and years forever my Julio and now this - ! He will no longer believe in me, I thought. Julio will lose all faith in me and there will be nothing left for
me but to die. What shall I do? It's too far to walk, I haven't got a helicopter... My heart was trying to jump right out of my breast. I was already scared to death at the mere thought of looking once again into Julio's face, Julio's eyes brimming over with love or is it fear? and now this. All is lost... When suddenly Michael, there beside me in the cab. He took my hand, firmly, in his own. 'Fear not,' he said. And the rain stopped, and the metal monsters released one another, and the lights began to flow again freely and evenly through the dusky Tiergarten, and my heart was quieted within me. 'Thou art a treasure given to me by God,' said Julio to me that night at the Deutsches Theater. Now how do you suppose he knew that? Oh, Julio knows things. It's the first thing I noticed about him, and the only thing that matters. Have you ever noticed how people never know anything? Nothing that counts. They don't know who you are, or what you want, or what frightens you, or what will make you smile, for real, deep down inside. None of these things does anyone ever know. Only Julio. He knows them all.
And this is what I know about you, my Julio. Who you are, and what you want, and what you are afraid of, and what will make you smile... Because I have perfect knowledge of thy soul. The outer edges of thy consciousness sometimes elude me, but the inner man - I hold in the palm of my hand. Well! Get into the boat now, little Brother. Don't be afraid, here is Michael to take us across. It's dark, but the dawn is coming. It's cold now, out here on the water, I know, but we'll soon be warm, when the sun comes up, when we get to the other side.
PART THREE â€“ THE FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLY The Road to Arevalo Father Diego de Yepes A steep path and narrow, winding uphill between walls of rock. Yellow and grey when the morning sun dazzles the snowy peaks, blue and purple at twilight and the valley far below us fast filling up with cloud. A path so steep even the mules were panting and stumbling, their flanks streaming, their hot breath fuming in the frozen air. For the last few miles I got down and walked out of pity for the poor beast who had borne me so patiently and so far.
Watching his breath come and go like mine, his eyes mild and unquestioning as I would have mine be, I was moved to think that perhaps in the eyes of God we are not so very far from one another, Brother Mule and I. Stumbling up a mountain path in the snow is apt to make you think: immensity, silence, the call of a wild bird more felt than heard, cottages like cunning toys at the bottom of infinity, one false step and you're flying downwards to certain death. What does all this look like to God, when He looks down from heaven to behold the children of men? From five thousand feet up a castle is very like a cottage, perhaps from the celestial throne a man is very like a mule. We arrived at the inn just before nightfall. A light snow had been falling all the afternoon and was beginning to be in earnest. Fat flakes whirled in the halo of the stableboy's torch. The simplest kind of mountain inn, set well back into a ledge of rock, squat, snow-thatched, unlovely. There will not be many travellers this time of year, I thought. There was one.
Teresa How are we to speak about the things of God? It's nonsense, because we cannot know them. Only one man was able to speak about them - Jesus, but He is God. If I try to speak about them I'm sure to fall immediately into error and foolishness. No, we cannot speak about the things of God. But it is possible to sing about them. I have heard it done, at court. There is a man who sings privately, for the Queen alone. Some say he is an Italian, others that he's a German - I don't know, I never saw him myself, only heard him singing, late in the night, from inside the Queen's chamber. Love? We don't know anything about it. Only that we're wandering around outside the castle in the dark, looking for it. But how are we to go about looking for something when we don't even know what it looks like? And besides that we're hunting in the dark. We have to keep our hands stretched out in front of us, feel for it, we have to keep listening for it - we might hear it calling, we might even trip over it in the dark. Then we see a certain person - it can be a man or a woman but usually it will be the opposite to ourselves - we see this person
and quite suddenly, we see. And will do anything to get close to that person. Suddenly we are able to commit acts of great heroism, folly, even the blackest sins. And what do we see that excites us so much, that leads us to believe that all our happiness, all our misery, the very meaning of life itself lies hidden behind the eyes of this one fragile and already cracked earthenware vessel? Oh - we see God, Diego, at last we see Him, sitting on his throne of light at the very centre of the castle. We see Jesus, Our Lord, the King, the Bridegroom of the Soul, and rightly the soul gives up everything to follow after Him. When God became a man, Diego, do you think he became just one man? Supposing for the moment that Jesus was truly a man and not just masquerading - and I for one am sure of it because He behaves like a man and does all sorts of crazy things that only a man would do, notably getting Himself crucified by a reluctant Roman administration - if Jesus, the Christ, whom we know to be God, was, or rather say is a man, for we won't imagine even for a moment that He's no longer in existence! We'd have the Inquisition knocking on the door in half an hour despite the snow - if He
who is truly God is truly man, what then are the rest of us? Are we not also truly God, made in his image? Or are we mere creations, figments of the divine imagination? Are we like the characters in a poem, Orlando or Tancredi, and God might at any point just, 'No, I don't like this character any more, he bores me, I'll cut him out of my poem...' Thhhp! He throws a few pages on the fire and you're gone. That doesn't happen, people don't suddenly disappear like that. Although I must say, I believe that even for poets it's not that easy. Even for a mere poet the destruction of a created being is not as easy as you might think - they tend to hang around after the immolation, pale, nervous, uninvited guests without a seat at your table. It can make you feel quite guilty; I've heard of poets who've gone mad this way. But to continue - What about man? He can't simply be rubbed out, omitted, he's really here, he exists, and has his existence in God. It's God's own breath in his mouth, it's God's light in his eyes. And when we love, a particular person in that sudden irrevocable and terrible way, it's exactly and only God that we love. It's God we see shining out of
those eyes. I don't know why He chooses to reveal Himself in this way, but He does. God does not just create man, He becomes man, and that not just once, but again and again, thousands and millions of times, He is always becoming, being born, into this poor little hut or castle, and dying on this Cross of His or that - a Cross is always at hand and stands ready. He is born into a thousand million men, and each is like the facet of a single great crystal, and the King Himself sits at the centre and gives light to the whole. Why would He do a thing like that, Diego? Why create - thousands and millions of little men, all in His image, all different, all the same? I know the official answer of course - God made man to know, love, and serve Him, but this is patently nonsense. God, who is perfect knowledge, has no need to be known. He, who already contains all perfections of being, who is the absolute perfection of being - what service could He possibly require of us? Do we imagine He has need of anything? If He hungers, will he eat the flesh of bulls? As for our love, how
can He who is himself perfect love have need of our little loves? It's laughable. Listen, Diego, my dear friend, my little Father don't ever so much as whisper this to anyone, they'd burn me for it if they ever heard - but I'm convinced, God made us because He was lonely. He made us because He needed something to love. It's not enough to be loved, Diego - it's a very fine thing, very comforting, very flattering to one's vanity, but it's not enough for the hungry soul. Not to be loved, but to love! We all feel it, we all know it, this mad pitiless desire. And we're only reflections, facets of the crystal, tiny mirrors, infinitesimal images of the Great King. If we, in our littleness, need something beautiful to love, how much more He! Only then, when we love, madly, with the whole soul and the whole heart and the whole mind, with every fibre of our being, only then do we long to be loved. To be loved in return! Ah, that is the definition of perfect bliss, everyone knows it - Do you think God doesn't know it? That's what goes on in heaven, that's what it is - it's the place you get to when you love God in return. So you see the old definition is not too far off after all - He did indeed
make us to love Him, to know Him, to serve Him but - in return. Not that we love Him, but that He first loved us! And if we refuse to love Him in return, why, He's in agony, like any spurned lover, He's nailed to a Cross, and there's no way down from that Cross, He's got to hang there till we let Him off. Tell me, have you ever been scorned by a beloved, Father? Ah, you're beginning to blush, I can see what the answer is. Don't be ashamed, it's a magnificent gift, this crazy love, truly the most outlandish and most refined of all the many divine inventions. But if you have ever been scorned then you know how much it hurts, you'll understand what I'm talking about. And this is the position that God takes up - willingly! towards us. He loves us, and He permits us to scorn Him. And then - He goes right on loving us, even more if more were possible, the more we scorn Him the more He chases after us, He is like some completely mad lover with no sense of himself anymore, He is completely given over to his passion and refuses, absolutely refuses to believe that it's hopeless, no matter what anyone tells him.
This is what sin is - it's the refusal to love Him in return. And He made us sinful - on purpose - He gave us this free will, so that we are able to choose to love Him, or not to love Him. Because of course without that our love would be worthless. Who among us would wish that the person whom we loved so madly, with all the heart and soul, also loved him in return merely because he had to, because we ourselves had so constructed him that he could not do otherwise? That's not love! you'll say, and you'd be right. This is the whole meaning of man's free will - that God made him able to love and, of course, the necessary correlative - able not to love. And out of this dis-ability, this not-to-love spring all sufferings - wars, sickness, lies, and cruelty, earthquakes and floods, and every evil that darkens the world. Don't think He blames us for it! There is never any question of blame - God wants us this way foolish, deluded, sinful, in pain - all of this makes us only more loveable in His eyes. Whom does a mother love more - her great strong son who has gone off to be a knight at court and won many honours, or the little baby screaming for her breast?
He made us that He might have something to love, and then He wounded us so that we would be sure to need Him, sure to scream for Him. He's made us free, yes, but He's loaded the dice. We don't have to love Him in return. But we're desperate until we do. There was a pause that lengthened to a steady, flickering silence, the shadows cast by the goblets, the earthenware jug, the tall, thin backs of the wooden chairs in the firelight. We had long ago finished our meal, the servants had gone to bed, still the snow was falling, silently, all around us. The room was close and warm, the shadows black and gold-gashed vermilion. I was the first to speak. 'I understand you have just come from Madrid tell me, my Mother, have you seen the Queen?' She sighed and turned her eyes upon me once again, for she had been looking into the fire. I have never seen such eyes! Full of secret laughter, as if she knew some wonderful joke and nothing in the world could induce her to tell it. 'Yes, Diego,' she said, smiling at my deduction. 'I've seen nothing else but Her Majesty, Our Lady Queen, these past three months, day and night, or
say rather night. Our Lord forgive me, but it's my pious wish to see no more of that good lady for a while!' 'And...?' 'And, Diego? What is it you wish to know?' 'Is she mad?' 'Mad? Oh! I don't think so, little Father. She is... unhappy. She has fallen in love, for the first and last time, and forever. It is a difficult experience for anyone.' 'In love with a man?' 'With a little lemon-coloured butterfly, Diego. Tell me, when you were a child, did you never play at catching butterflies? They're not really all that hard to catch, they're not terribly attentive when once they've lighted on a flower - I suppose the scent overwhelms them so they pay no attention to what's coming up behind them - not very wise! Be that as it may, I remember as a girl quite often I could not resist the temptation to clap my hands over one of these fine foolish little creatures as it stood lost in its private raptures upon an open flower, the little wings beating so softly, almost imperceptibly... I opened my hands like this - and clap! At once the
soft little wings were beating their tiny life out against the palms of my hands. The problem was, what to do with it now I had got it? I couldn't keep it forever imprisoned there in the dark between my hands... I could crush it of course, if I liked, but I did not want to crush it, I only wanted to hold it close in the dark for a minute or two, to feel its tiny life safe in my hands. And then to open my hands and let it go, out into the light. I had heard that if you touch a butterfly's wings it will die, that there's a special substance, a kind of fairy-dust they carry on their wings and without which they sink helpless to the ground and perish. I was careful never to touch a butterfly's wings, to cup my hands about it, so - with infinite care. But listen, Diego, if it interests you so much, I'll tell you what Her Majesty, Our Lady Queen had to say to me these three months in that stifling apartment of hers and I wish somebody would open a window once in a while but no, it's always the same, shut up like a tomb, the curtains drawn, candles burning, incense, dogs, monkeys, and that insufferable Dwarf - but here is what she said
The Queen I'm not sure when it began to be so, that music became for me a source of pure pain. It did not happen all at once, but gradually, like so many things that come upon us, little by little, and change the way we are forever, such things as sickness, love, old age. Although I have never understood those people who claim to find in music a source of comfort - that has always seemed to me very strange. I have never found comfort in music, unless it be that uncompromising and hideously cold comfort we call Truth. But I have sometimes found an arduous companionship, a lurid light like unto that of funeral fires. I would dose myself with music, sometimes to the point of overdose and comatose and near-death, and for a while it seemed to help they tell me I was better for a while, that in the late afternoon I was often dressed, that I sometimes even consented to go out upon the terrace and sit for a while under the unusually large sky but this of course only in the evening when the stars were out. They said I was better, everyone said it, so I suppose it was true, I suppose it worked somewhat on the
principle of homeopathic medicine and that the poisonous flames of this music were in some way a balm to my inflamed and swollen heart. When did all this begin to change? I'm trying to remember... There was a well or perhaps a fountain. I think at first it was a fountain, but then it shrank and shrivelled and burrowed itself deep into the earth, it became a well, a dark well of pain, with an echo - oh, yes! I've heard the echo, I can hear it now, it's quite loud and very distressing, every time I speak this terrible echo from the well of pain. But in the beginning it was a fountain. I heard it first before I saw it. I followed the sound, it was by far the most beautiful thing I have ever heard, the voice of this fountain singing to itself in the wilderness. I followed it, I found it springing up, a light in the middle of the forest, a flood of improbable diamonds so deep in the dark wood. I sat down beside my fountain, I listened with all my heart - I meant to stay forever, never to leave. Then everything else suddenly went away from me, there was nothing at all in the world but my fountain gushing over with light. I put my hands into the water and they turned to pure gold, nor would the
gold come off again no matter how hard I scrubbed, indeed, they are golden to this hour, I am obliged to wear gloves if I don't want people to remark upon them. Did I mention the butterflies, my Mother? Where the fountain had been, after it dried up and shrank back into the earth a cloud of butterflies but they soon flew away. Only one remained, it settled on the back of my hand, beating its slow lemon-pale wings in time to my heart. I was afraid to move, to make a sound. I didn't want to frighten it away. I didn't want it to fly away as the others had done. It has not flown away, my Mother, it is here still although I haven't seen it for a long time now still I know it is here, I would know at once if it were to go. I can feel the wings beating, here, inside my chest, if it were suddenly to fly off I would feel it, do you see? But it isn't happy here, trapped inside this dark cage of blood and bone, it would like to get out into the light but how? Poor little butterfly... I don't know how it got inside in the first place perhaps when I was sleeping it flew into my ear and so down and down and was trapped in the darkness at my heart. And what shall I do if it escapes, if perhaps
while I'm sitting before the mirror one night - for I dare not sleep at all now - it slips out with a breath or a sound or a thought and flutters off into the night? Tell me, my Mother, is it true that a butterfly dies if you touch its wings? Another pause, not quite as long as the first, long enough, however, for me to notice that the fire had burned down to one last red-and-black split; to rise and place new logs and watch them smoke and sputter, and flare up in little lemon-coloured flames; to go to the small window set high in the wall and look out. The snow was still falling steadily around us. I heard the dear little Mother sigh gently, and shift in her chair. Her face was wrought with some intense emotion, as if she were about to laugh, or cry, I could not tell which. I half-filled a goblet with the dark red, bitter wine and handed it to her. 'All depends on the butterfly,' she said. 'She's bound to follow it. And travel is so difficult for Her Majesty! You know, Diego, before she goes anywhere they have to pack the royal carriage entirely with straw - you can imagine what a mess it makes. But it seems the Queen's insides are not like
those of ordinary mortals, but actually made of glass, and even a slight jolting of the carriage would be enough to shatter them. And this same woman, with her vital organs liable to be smashed at any moment, has to wander the wide world in the wake of a capricious and mysterious yellow butterfly. But what of that? The strangest part is yet to come. I had it from the palace servants, who always seem to know all that goes on. Last summer, for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, the Queen decided to present all of her favourites with sumptuous gifts, and to her faithful Kammers채nger certainly the costliest gift of all - it put all the others quite in the shade. A suit of the most splendid armour, shining like the sun, wrought in Mexican silver and completely damascened in gold. Now when the day arrived for the celebrations the Royal Kammers채nger was, naturally enough, expected to appear in the front ranks, clad in the Queen's magnificent gift and mounted on his white Arabian charger - yet another of Her Majesty's gifts, I believe it was on the occasion of the knight's birthday, although I've heard that the gentleman in question is deathly afraid of horses. Quoi qu'il en soit - when it
came time to dress for the presentation of arms the valet was sent out to the stables to gather handfuls of straw, the suit of fine armour was padded throughout, and the noble Kammers채nger packed in as carefully as a Venetian chandelier. It seems he suffers from the same rare condition as our Lady Queen, insides entirely of glass. Imagine the scene: he perched precariously upon the nervous horse, sweating into the straw-padded armour in the heat of the sun, the cavalry kicking up a cloud of red dust in the parade ground, the banners hanging lifeless and shrivelled like the empty pods of butterflies that have flown away, for there was not a breathe of wind that day; and she, far in the distance, invisible inside her gilded coach, sitting bolt upright with the curtains drawn, her eyes tightly shut beneath the blue veil, her hands clenched within their lace mittens, the thud of drums and horses' hooves rattling her delicate bones till they threaten to snap... I ask you, Diego, are these two in any condition to go travelling? And yet they will, they must.' 'Are they travelling together then?' 'They are, but they don't know it yet. Each believes himself to be alone, to have lost the other,
each is searching for the other and the whole time they're actually holding hands in the dark. But they can't see whose hand it is they're holding, they're lost in this dark night of the soul...' 'I thought that was coming.' 'But it's not all dark, Diego, because there's the butterfly, leading them. Keep your eye on it, don't lose sight of it no matter what, a tiny bright flicker at the edge of the mind, a smudge of light in all that darkness, something to cling to, something understood.' 'That's all very interesting, my Mother,' I said at last. 'But what I would like to know is this. Where's it trying to get to, this butterfly of yours? Where does it think it's going on its tiny wings?' 'Don't be misled by size, light things travel extremely well, indeed it's much easier for something small and light to travel than for something bulky and heavy- surely you remarked that coming up this mountain! It's the reason I travel so well myself, you know! ( This a reference to her diminutive stature and indeed the dear Mother is scarcely larger than a girl of ten and with advancing years has grown as thin as a bundle of sticks.) Yes,
light things travel extremely well - a few notes piped by a shepherd upon a hillside will easily circle the globe, and there's a kind of butterfly that travels every year from its home in the German forests to pass the winter on the plains of east Africa. But take something really heavy, something massive, ponderous, such as a cry of pain - it doesn't travel at all, it's pinned to the ground by its own sheer weight and size, which is why no one ever hears it at all.' 'I cried with my whole heart, Hear me, O Lord!' 'God hears everything, Diego. You know that. He that planted the ear, shall he not hear?' 'But you haven't answered my question about the butterfly...' 'Where's it going?' 'Yes.' She threw back her head and laughed what a pretty music! 'You laugh like a girl of ten, little Mother.' 'I am a girl of ten, my Father. Where's it going? Well, probably not to east Africa, at any rate.' 'To the German forests?' 'More likely.'
Missing Children A German forest, deep in snow, night is beginning to fall. Dozens of policemen are trudging through the snow, beating the undergrowth with sticks. Several large Alsatian dogs, their coats spots of colour gold and black against the white, are lolloping here and there, sniffing at this and that. Men and dogs alike, they have been out all day in the cold, since the first light of dawn, beating the underbrush, sniffing, scratching, searching, searching... This is the third day that they have been out to search the forest in this pitiless cold. The feet and hands of the men are numb, their legs stiff as columns of ice, their minds blank - for minutes on end they can no longer remember what it is they are looking for. The dogs stand still in the dusk and look hopefully to their masters, tongues lolling, ears pricked in anticipation of the longed-for command Feierabend! There is a sound of motors coughing into reluctant wakefulness, the headlights of the greenand-white police vans switch on, cast blinding glances into the wood, the radio crackles, the command is given, men and dogs stagger gratefully
through the snow towards the turning blue lights and familiar sounds, the branches of the naked trees cast sharp, thin shadows upon the now quickly retreating figures. They hasten into the waiting vans and drive off into the night. Now a little lemon-coloured butterfly comes to rest upon a spray of pine that protrudes from an insignificant mound of snow. Under the snow a bundle of pine boughs has been carefully arranged, spread, like a fan, to cover a shallow cache in the ground. Under the pine boughs is the thing the policemen and dogs have been looking for these past three days without success. Es waren zwei Kรถnigskinder..... One of them is certainly lying here, under the snow. A boy or a girl? Impossible to say as yet, we will have to wait for one of the dogs to plunge his wet black nose into the fragrant piny nest, tail wagging in triumph, paws scrabbling; we will have to wait for the policemen to come, called by the dog's frantic barking, suddenly animated out of their deepfreeze of indifference loathing despair - it is not pleasant work, combing the woods for dead children. We will have to wait to find out - boy or girl? Dressed
or naked in the snow? Physically violated or virginally intact? Strangled, stabbed, mutilated beyond recognition? We will have to wait for answers to all these questions. But I have my doubts that the policemen of Brandenburg, even with the aid of intelligent sniffer dogs, will ever penetrate this deep into the forest. We are deep here, we are very very deep. Nobody comes this deep into the forest but the little yellow butterfly, whose flight we have followed. This is the Forest of Missing Children. This is where all the children go who are never seen again. That brother and sister who were sent by their wicked stepmother into the forest to gather wood, in the hope that they would lose their way and freeze to death in the dark - they are here. And the little Princess whose beauty so enraged the wicked Queen, her mother, that she had her dragged off into the forest by a huntsman, who cut her throat and shed her blood as if she were a wild deer - she too is here. The village boy who left one afternoon on his bicycle for choir practice but never arrived at the Dorfkirche; the bicycle was found in a nearby cemetery, lying on its side, covered in snow, but the
boy was never found. He is here. As is the twelveyear-old girl who disappeared one bright green summer morning on her way to school. The boy whose mother used to hold his little hands against the red-hot stove to punish him for crying - he is here. The little girl who was tied to her bed and left to starve to death in her own excrement is here. The boy who was chained up in the yard and fed scraps like a dog, whose father finally beat him to death one winter night - he's here. Children tortured, fingered, and fucked are here. The babies strangled at birth are all of them here. How quiet it is here in the deepest part of the forest. No flashing blue lights here no barking of dogs no crackling of police radios no wet muzzles no teeth no sticks. How lightly the snow covers them, how gently. How sweet the scent of pine boughs above the quiet graves. Here under the moonlight and the starlight the missing children are slumbering in the quiet earth. The snow whispers as I kneel to clear the boughs from the secret grave. The butterfly dancing in the air before me, starlight glimmering on its ghostly wings. I move the boughs carefully, one by one, the snow pours from the thin
needles like sugar as I pile them neatly to one side. Now the moonlight is glinting upon glass. A little glass coffin, edged in gold. Inside is a little girl, six or seven years old, resting upon a white silk cushion. She is dressed in a simple white nightdress, her long dark curls tumble loosely over her shoulders and breast, her eyes are closed, there's a warm flush upon her cheeks, and her little white feet are quite bare. Why there you are! I say to the girl, not really surprised, but still terribly glad to find her here, looking so well. Here you are at last, after all these years. And I thought they'd smashed you, I thought they'd broken you into a thousand thousand irretrievable pieces, I thought I'd lost you forever ... Is my little Brother here too then? Oh, he must be, for never could I lie so quiet under the snow were not thou here, beside me. Though but a little child, still would I wander the wide world, clad as I am only in my thin nightdress and barefoot in the snow I would roam the wide world over till I found thee. Again the butterfly flutters down and comes to rest - yes, there is another grave glinting here under the snow. With trembling hands I shift the
boughs, then fall to my knees and gaze in wonder upon the sleeping face of my long-lost beloved little Brother. O Du, my Julio..... You are just as I remember you, asleep beside me in our little white bed in the great moonlit nursery under the eaves of the palace. Your head covered in crisp golden curls, your cheekbones like fledgling wings jutting through the thin skin, your stubborn little chin, with the tiny mole in the left corner like an apology for so much beauty. You were always a light sleeper, Julio, but I was a lighter, and would sometimes lie awake and watch you, deep in the night, watch the quiet breath come and go in your body, watch the secret play of dreams upon your face. Sometimes, as I lay with my head on your warm, hard little shoulder, I would find myself plunged into your dreams - a bright, noisy world of endless battle - clanging clashing galloping singing - there was always much singing and blowing of trumpets there. But the music, though beautiful, was so loud it frightened me, the horses frightened me, galloping by so fast, kicking up the red dust with their golden hooves, and the roaring of the dragons, the clashing of arms, the
shouting of soldiers all frightened me - I would awake suddenly with a cry! To find you. Opening your wide grey eyes that seemed to hold all the light in the world only to shine upon me. We'd whisper together of the dream world and you'd laugh, so gently! and say to me, Little Sister, little Sister! Don't be scared, little Miss Mouse! Won't I always protect you? And then pretend to be the dragon and frighten me all over again, but I wasn't really frightened this time, only screaming sotto voce to make you bite me, digging your sharp little wolf's teeth into my foot! Then we'd lie back quieted and you'd confide to me your serious plans for the future - how many dragons you were going to kill one day, and exactly what sort of magic sword you'd have, and how we'd be married and have ten children, as well as a flying horse with super powers, and a pair of pet polar bears or sometimes it was a pair of Ussurian jungle tigers..... I'd begin to grow sleepy, listening to your voice in the dark, and nestle closer against your shoulder, and then you'd sing for me in your high clear childish voice - ein Lied aus alten Zeiten.
How peaceful your sleep now, my Julio. How still your troubled soul. If I climb into your grave and take you in my arms will you open your eyes and look once again into my eyes with that strange twilight sadness? How quiet it is in the forest. I can even hear the tiny rustle of the butterfly's wings as it rises once more into the air. Now it's dancing in a shaft of moonlight, beckoning me to follow. Farewell, little Brother! We shall meet again, when the long night is over. Until then - Schlaf selig und sĂźĂ&#x;! Schau im Traum 's Paradies, mein Prinz. The very last tears to be wiped away shall be tears of joy.
Grace Andreacchi was born and raised in New York City but has lived on the far side of the great ocean for many years - sometimes in Paris, sometimes Berlin, and nowadays in London. Works include the novels Give my Heart Ease, which received the New American Writing Award, and Music for Glass Orchestra, and the play Vegetable Medley (New York and Boston). Stories and poetry appear in both online and print journals. Her work can be viewed at http://graceandreacchi.com.
Published on Apr 22, 2009