On the train
to find a metaphor,
to express
the confusion and certainty
I felt that day,
is difficult.
Four hours, my eyes
seeing only your reaction
in fields, stations, towns.
Time rushing by
too soon.

Walking that final distance
ringing that bell
your face;
your beautiful, blonded face
pleased, then uncertain,
then horror slowly dawning
as you sat unbelieving.
Your eyes not yet red from crying.



He stood about the spraddled body in the blood muck of the room, not that he clearly saw the room, and he thought he heard a sucking sound come out of the man's face, the afterbirth of face, the facial remains of what was once a head.

But first he went through the sequence and it played out the same.

When they took him out to the cop car there were people on the stoops, in robes, some of them, and heads in many windows, hanging pale and hushed, and a number of young men stood near the car, some he knew well and some in passing, and they watched him closely and gravely, thinking this was a kind of history taking place, here in their own remote and common streets.

Underworld, Don DeLillo, 1997



... they create a framework of institutions with diverse responsibilities but with a single ethos, because the Good Friday agreement, and George Mitchell's review of its workings have taught us that what we can do alone does not stand comparison with what we can achieve in partnership.  (Peter Mandleson)

The hand of history is at last lifting the burden of terror and violence and shaping a new and peaceful future for Northern Ireland and in particular for the children. (Tony Blair)

The people of Northern Ireland now have the power to shape their own destiny and choose their own future.  Democratic government by and for all of the people of Northern Ireland is now replacing suspicion fear and violence.  It is now possible to believe the day of the gun and the bomb are in fact over. (Bill Clinton)

This is a day that's almost impossible to believe. (BBC Reporter)

Tuesday 30th November, 1999



A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window.  It had begun to snow again.  He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamp-light.  The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward.  Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland.  It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hill, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves.  It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried.  It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns.  His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of the last end, upon all the living and the dead. 

The Dead, James Joyce, 1914



The end is never like the point that would have been had there been no ending.  Something happens when things end, something trips in the mind.  The things you were only dimly aware of finally make themselves conscious.  The body becomes yours again.  After the performance.  If things never ended what would it mean?  Is it only an ending that gives anything a meaning; a purpose even?  A book, a song, a relationship, a race. 



- God, it's freezing outside
- Yes
- Are we still on for this weekend?
- Listen, I'm not sure, I've been thinking about it and...
- Hey, no problem
- I've had second thoughts, it's just that I...
- Look, fine
- I'm happy on my own
- OK
- I didn't want to take things too far
- Too far? look OK don't worry
- Are you sure?
- Yes
- Well, thanks
- Thanks for...?
- Thanks for being so good about it
- OK, look, take care
- You take care too
- Yeah
- OK, bye
- Bye



Macondo was already a fearful whirlwind of dust and rubble being spun about by the wrath of the biblical hurricane when Aureliano skipped eleven pages so as not to lose time with facts he knew only too well, and he began to decipher the instant that he was living, deciphering it as he lived it, prophesying himself in the act of deciphering the last page of the parchments, as if he were looking into a speaking mirror.  Then he skipped again to anticipate the predictions and ascertain the date and circumstances of his death.  Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moments when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth. 

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1967



You look for the moment.  The moment passes.  You look again.  The quiet, insistent, whispered breath.  A long unending outrush of air, and then the quick inrush.  An inverted breath.  Exhale only to inhale; to stay alive.  The lips move unconsciously, forming words never known.  Unknowable words from unknowable thoughts.  Last words.  The body moves suddenly but slowly, curling up, surrounding an invisible core.  How long now? 

You wait.  You look again.  You wait for the moment. 



He sold his records.  At least he sold some of his records, the ones he thought didn't mean enough; had never meant enough.  They stood leaning against a wall by the front door for two weeks.  Genesis, Camel, Rainbow.

The man offered him £20.  Not bad considering.  But then the man has seen these records so many times before.

A month later he went back to the same shop.  He found himself trying to find all his records again.  Part of his life was distributed around the shelves,  nestling with parts of other people's lives.  He wanted his life back; he wanted this little hole to be filled.  This tiny little hole to be re-filled. 

The decision is made.  To go forward; to do without; to move on. You give part of your life away so easily.  You send it out into the world for others to buy or leave as they choose.  Do you ask too much of it?



Rabbit comes to the kerb but instead of going to his right and around the block he steps down, with as big a feeling as if this little side-street is a wide river, and crosses.  He wants to travel to the next patch of snow.  Although this block of brick three-storeys is just like the one he left, something in it makes him happy; the steps and window-sills seem to twitch and shift in the corner of his eye, alive.  This illusion trips him.  His hands lift of their own and he feels the wind on his ears even before, his heels hitting heavily on the pavement at first but with an effortless gathering out of a kind of sweet panic growing lighter and quicker and quieter, he runs.  Ah: runs.  Runs.

Rabbit, Run, John Updike, 1960


March 2000