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Telling Stories

The Billboard

Telling Stories

Telling stories was difficult.The lost lovers, the effulgent natural world, things seen, ignored or invisible. You  had to write them down.  The key issue was one of evidence. How could you prove what you had seen or felt? What implements would you use to record it? Who could see or hear? And what would they tell? Was the furniture of her mind enough to act as a kind of shorthand? Well, she’d find out. 

There was indeed a landscape of memory, just as there was a landscape of feelings. Memories would rank themselves in serried rows in your mind: but you had to give them a voice and a place. Some people had to invent a hierachy to make them memorable. Sarah rummaged in her handbag: old train tickets, lipsticks, notes about enlightenment, dictionaries with X and Z ripped out, drafts of poems, spells, dreamcatchers. And right at the bottom was a black whiteboard marker. That must be a message. 

She had to find a surface to write on. As she trudged through the darkening streets, she noticed that they were full of rubbish. The city was becoming a dump. It was malodorous. Memories don’t stink, as a rule: but these did. She recalled that there was a place somewhere in the Pacific Ocean where, by some trick of the winds and the tides, all the plastic detritus of the world collected. Swaying back and forth, living forever, poisoning and smothering the living things. This was like that. The magical city had come to this.

Well, she struggled through, knee high and sometimes waist high in stuff. Flotsam and jetsam of the mind. And then on the horizon she saw it. It seemed at first to be a huge advertising billboard. But as she drew close,  she saw it was an enormous whiteboard, and on the top, in a beautiful italic hand, was written: SARAH: THIS IS FOR YOU. WRITE!

She picked up her marker pen, and suddenly she knew that all new knowledge comes by challenging the established hierachies of the past,  by a deep listening to memory  and by the freedom to play with it. Logic and predictability had nothing to do with creative recall. From the depths of her psyche welled up a poem by Robert Duncan that she had read years before and never forgotten. It spoke of the Mother, and of power, and of violence, and of loss, and of fear, and of blood. And she wrote from memory on the whiteboard. She edited and changed it (sometimes a lot, sometimes a little) as she went along:

My mother would be a falconress

And I, her gerfalcon treading her wrist

Would fly to bring back

From the blue of the sky, to her, bleeding, a prize,

Where I dream in my little hood with many bells

Jangling when I’d turn my head. 


But high, high in the air I flewAnd far, far beyond the curb of her will

Were the blue hills where the falcons nest

And then I saw west to the dying sun -

It seemed my human soul went down in flames

I tore at her wrist, at the hold she had over me

Until the blood ran hot and I heard her cry out


My mother would be a falconress

And even now, years after this, 

When the wounds I left her had surely healed

And the woman is dead

Her fierce eyes closed, and if her heart

Were broken, it is stilled

I would be a falcon and go free

I tread her wrist  and wear the hood

Talking to myself, and would draw blood

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