This soot-dark smear across the brow, between the eyes, will lead you, if the way be clear, through all the endless winter of our year, toward an elemental table, the tears and savage hubbub of that agonizing garden, the treacherous courtyard, hilltop, nails and spear, the cry, the dark descending fear, and then another garden with a cave and such an austere emptiness will fill the rest of history with clear resounding alleluias.
I’m still looking, scanning, skipping right to the end at times, or settling for the gist on the first page, reading—more selectively across the years— but reading just the same, in the news and novels, articles and extracts, poems even . . . searching for the one, the word, the sentence that can tell me what it’s all about, why I’m here, will not be here much longer, where this morning’s golden-leaving autumn beauty comes from, why, and what it’s for, who thought this whole thing called existence up and maybe has a clue about its shape and size and possible duration. While all the time, beneath, behind, beyond the endless pages, the unrelenting streaming of the words, it unquestionably happens, keeps on happening, without any hope or need for explanation, moving on, while I stand wordless, gasping in its tumbling wake.
Even before D Day and the great emptying out of England's fields and hedgerows —one vast and camouflaged parking lot— onto the harrowed beaches of the French, even before those daily tidal waves of bombers bearing east about sunset to deliver our turn, even after the buzz-bombs, doodlebugs— names to tame them into toys they never were— came skittering across out skies in random hate, cigar ends glowing frightful in the dark, Mum and Dad decided that the cold and earthy damp of our backyard Anderson shelter posed more risk than the odd incendiary bomb. When the warning sounded from the factory roof they would bed us down beneath the tough oak table round which we ate our meals, wrote letters, diaries, drew and painted, did the homework we brought back from school—still sandbagged from the big one landing in the lower playground. It was the closest Dick and I came to a camping trip those confined cautionary years and whatever fears still lingered lay concealed beneath the tangled maze of bedclothes, pillows, table legs. "Is that the all-clear, Daddy?" we would ask of that second wailing siren, far later in the night, reassured and yet reluctant, somehow, to forsake the secret shelter of our cozy bivouac. Then back upstairs to bed, dread now, if not dissolved, deferred at least until some deeper, even darker night to come.