Tuesday, June 12, 2007
It was the progress of an enchantment. In a crowded way near the dance floor, I meet and embrace an old friend, who congratulates me on the mechanical device I've just trialed. Despite the complexity of the engineering, it's really just a kind of balloon that, launched into the air, includes a trapdoor that opens so that lollies fall in a scramble for the kids below ... we move on from there towards other amazements and next I find myself in the loft of an old church, looking past an upright, golden slab of sandstone into a wide bare room beneath the peaked roof. My sons are with me and we are aware that the spell we've cast has been successful, the black and spiky demons that haunted this belfry have gone and in their place there is ... a pure white heifer, Io or Europa, her delicate hooves tapping across the wooden floorboards. Time to go, I say, we will climb through the window and down the ladder leaning outside against the wall, rejoin the rest of our party. The rungs of the thin metal ladder are far apart and my youngest boy is nervous about his ability to reach from one to the next but there's no time to waste, the heifer has been replaced by an enormous, dew-lapped, hump-shouldered white bull, Zeus no doubt, not malign but threatening in his magnificence and unconcern ... we tumble safely down the ladder. Now it is time for us to take our seats on the buses for the journey home but first I have to choose a book to read along the way. There are so many books here! In heaps outside along the ground, stacked on shelves inside. And they are so dull ... there is not one I want to read. Everyone else is already on one or other of the two buses, they'll leave without me if I'm not careful but I can't get on until I decide what book to read, and I can't ... decide. Anyway, I think, I can always catch the train. Finally I see, open on the floor, in landscape format, an illustrated volume of Kafka's Diaries. The pictures are extraordinary, they show fantastical figures, angels, nymphs, golems, pixies, fairies, elves, trolls, disporting in the skies above the roofs of Prague. Beautiful in their pale, airy blues and greens. This is the book for me but it belongs to someone else, an artist, she has been using it to make the figurines I can see on the coloured cloth spread out on the floor in front of the book shelf. I look closely at these tiny mannequins, they are only an inch or so tall, incredibly detailed, a commedia d'ell arte of grotesques out of Hieronymos Bosch. No way I can take this woman's book, it has to stay here with her clay gallery, I'll travel on alone and unaccompanied by any reading matter. Outside, the church has disappeared, the buses have gone, I'm alone and not in the least perturbed, I'll catch the train from Ashfield station back to Summer Hill ... just then I see my sister, not as she was, but the age she would be now if she had lived. Except everything about her is wrong: a bad wig of the wrong colour, dusty gold instead of black, smeared make-up put on all slapdash, frumpy clothes, an ugly voice. And unhappy in a lifelong kind of way. Yet it's clearly her, I can tell from the set of her shoulders, just the way our mother held herself. I square my own, I take her by the arm. There's nothing else to do. We will go back home together.
DREAMER: Martin Edmond