For Virginia Woolf

When a body dies the ghost it is said sometimes haunts us. But when a book is read, and shut up and put away, what happens to that ghost? Some haunt us almost whole; poems for the most part; but the greater number fade, and not merely fade, but as they are blown about the corridors of the brain change, and mingle with other shapes, so that after some years they are scarcely recognizable.

I am a pulsing between. I am a wave between the sea and the moon. I am a ghost between the quick and the dead. I am a memory between the past and the future. I am a blank page between a writer and life’s unstoppable stream. I am a question between the unknown and the unknowable. I am a silence between lovers. I am a lighthouse between the lost and the found. I am an interlude between the acts. I am an eye between the darkness within and the darkness without. I am a metaphor between a rose and a rose. I am a tensile web between fatetwined strangers. I am a suspense between an ascent and a plunge. I am a vibration between a word and a thing. I am an androgyne, a quivering transition, a luminous passage, a flicker passing through the night.

I used to think words were rungs on a ladder – sometimes ascending to airy summits, sometimes descending underground, but always promising to show me something that will change everything. Now I know words don’t rise or fall – they spread like wild grass on a plain. Lying on this sprawling greenness, I contemplate the silent sky above and feel the earth beneath me spinning through spiraling time.

He only wrote letters to strangers and the dead. He forgot about his missives – queer love letters – as soon as he consigned them to the waves. But now and then, out of the blue, mysterious replies would appear in his mailbox.

A blank piece of paper – whiteness in motion, mirror of emotions.
After darkening the page with words, he was always seized by an impulse to wipe out everything he’d just written – to return to the moving radiance of the empty page.

Everything that dies comes to life again – but not right away. The dead lay low before they return, giving the survivors time to forget. Time passes . . . Springing back to life, the dead take the living by surprise.

His ghosts were mixed affairs – fusions of the ordinary and the miraculous spouting sphinxy riddles; waves of mixed-up pasts and futures disturbing his unsteady present; composites of the living and the dead wandering in his clear-obscure dreams; compounds of the remembered and the forgotten mysteriously moving his muscles, his mesmerized brain. A plaything of time, a confused admixture of repetition and difference, he was haunted by his own mind’s monstrous progeny.

Time too is a ghost. (Time two is a ghost.)

To atomize every solid thing – not like a conquistador aroused by senseless destruction, or like a solemn scientist in search of cold indestructible truths, but like a penetrating pulse of light momentarily scattering the darkness.

He was a meteorologist of mystery, an alchemist of ethereal paradoxes. In his underground laboratory, he experimented with atmospheric enigmas – capturing whispered intimations in the air, concocting haunted mists in flasks and tubes, blending the breaths of rare plants and animals, mingling the dreams of extreme personalities – all to make an atmosphere of mystery to surprise strangers into fleeting moments of sublime cohesion.

Something had happened. Something so trifling in single instances that no mathematical instrument could register the vibration; yet in its fulness rather formidable and, in its common appeal, emotional, for in all the tea rooms and restaurants men and women who were strangers looked at each other as though they were not strangers.

A sympathetic logophile, he felt a characteristic vibration for each word - and for each space or silence between words - like strings of different lengths, tautnesses, and compositions.

Versatile filaments, wordstrings can be coiled like snakes or springs; knotted or unraveled; woven into airy webs to catch prismatic dew, into subtle nets for capturing dreamfish, dreambirds, into a Penelopean brocade made and unmade in anticipation of a perpetually deferred homecoming.

He only wrote with mechanical pencils because they were always sharp – the better to make holes and openings, tears and apertures with. Every time he picked up a pencil he was seized by visions of its black point pricking an eyeball. What savage image was trying to penetrate his startled eyes? What wild phantasm struggling to escape the dark confines of his skull?

Ecstasy has its dangers, bliss its risks.

But unless something restrained his heart it would burst, fly asunder into pieces.

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