Anyone who believes a leaf is just a leaf is missing
the point. In the attic, there’s a picture of gingko
growing steadily yellow, while the body
of gingko remains evergreen. He works his way
through opium dens and bordellos. I’d like to tell you
not to worry. Reality has a way of sorting itself out,
but panic is infectious. The scare arrives when you’re doing
jumping jacks or organising the cutlery, some moment of low
cosmological drama. Interrupted by the discovery of a lump.
Or the 9 o’clock news. Suddenly, every door handle is a death
sentence. How lonely it must have been for the first astronomers,
freezing on their terraces, trying to catch the light of faraway moons.
Sometimes it’s hard to know whether you’re slowing down
or speeding up. Time’s wobbly trampoline confuses us.
We stitch our days and nights, one to the other,
and it’s like embroidering a galaxy, but even galaxies
recede from one another. Once, a woman played my body
as though it were a harp. I slept on a wooden plank
and she strummed the strings below until I became
a whale shark, pounding through the oceans. I emerged
as if out of a wormhole, more or less intact. For days I felt fins
where my cheeks should have been. We talk of bodies
as though we could not understand the universe within them,
even though we’ve all gaped at the stump of a tree
and understood that time moves outwards in a circle.
And while everything seems endless, there’s always a ring
of something permeable holding us in. Sometimes we leave
the house without our masks and it’s a relief to take a break
from who we are. Dwarf star, prayer bell, lone stag
feeding in the gorse—something will hold a mirror
to our faces, when all we need is to be led upstairs.

From A God at the Door. Reproduced with kind permission of Bloodaxe Books.

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