Through a casement window whose separate panes (inky at night) were framed in white — my view — I saw something or I was able to imagine seeing, for a moment, something. Other-worldly? “Monstrous”?
Swelling up, across the dark panes of glass, a smooth vague pale shape or blur seeming to rise and float. Then each pane a separate (disconnected) instance, then gone, not to return (or “why would you want to torture yourself ?”) and the idea (or memory) with that brief glimpse.
Whatever it was, no had been, moving across a measured area of vision (only) to vanish. And something uneasy in the slowness of that reach or my slow animation of what after all might be nothing more than a conceit. I can after all “remember” what never happened, what was only (briefly, lightly) ‘in passing,’ thought. (Faceless, did I say that? Just gesture, the ‘fact’ of its ‘taking over’ the whole — fast — point.) (If there was a point.)
In other words.
A ghost behaving exactly like “a ghost” or someone (alive) pretending, according to certain clearly understood if unstated rules, to be a ghost. (Sheet w/ eye holes? Almost.) (A laugh.) A large whitish rising wave, fabric-like as fabricated, out of, as we say, ‘the whole cloth’: just what you can expect of what you aren’t supposed ever (in quotes) to expect.
Of course I knew better than to try to write about it.
As if the will itself might (“pure will”) move in front of a patient or even amused viewer: like an adored or at least indulged child in its borrowed sheet or stolen tablecloth. Be careful out there?! How my flash of panic could swiftly turn to solicitousness: don’t hurt yourself. Out there. Would’ve, had it existed, embodied, my (little, said with a certain tenderness) ‘spook,’ picked up on the screened-in porch (for the window “gave” on that uneasily interior/ exterior space) a hem of thick gray dust, smudges on knees and elbows, etc. if not in fact caught a cold out there on the in no way imaginary (though it was also once just a gleam in the eye of its architect) screened-in porch of the little house I was alone in, in winter, in the New England woods where I’d come to focus on my art. Useless space at the start of the new year, that porch, an ice-box or What do you think you’re doing, get in here right now, do you want to catch your death … (Not funny at all.) Haunting me.
Something lost — something other — signals, seeking to enter or return. Signaling me? Who here is conceited? Let me go back to the beginning (let me repeat): I imagined all this. (I insist.)
Made (what?) it up maybe out of the flickering sense I’d been having a lot that I was missing or had just missed a movement outside (“something’s out there!”) I couldn’t quite catch — so I found myself in the grip of a notion — I (almost instantly) (it’s all about that “almost”) dismissed or as the phrase goes wrote off.
Yet I couldn’t (at the same time) shake the fear or (almost) reassuring shock of recognizing something like a call for recognition, as if it was true: the world is — poor (“little”) ghost — trying to get the attention of those who, inattentive if not unseeing, inhabit it. (Why invent?)
That pale undulation of something like a veil across my window I set down, as we say, to fatigue, having tried all day, if intermittently, to conjure something up or lift a canvas (of prior representations as well as my own ineptitude or blindness): trying to find the right words for the world I moved through, concentrating on the fact or ‘problem’ of old snow (wind-sculpted, whipped stiffly upright in elegant, finished drifts or just “a mess”: dirty irregular shapes of rock-hard ice), and the changing light. How can I … so you see … ?
Were the shadows of leafless saplings “like rivulets” (for instance) and what was the point of asking that? I was telling myself I just wanted to fix the extraordinary beauty of these — all in one direction but subtly deviating — blue-gray shadows spilled across the faintly gold-tinted (in the light of the low winter sun) surface of the drifts, and feeling my failure to arrive at … I only, so I said, wanted the words to give something of that same sense: something of the image’s plentitude and immediacy, to take away, an accompaniment. So … — what I stalked by day (to dismantle into sentences) came (back) for me at night?! Oh, right. What (a) conceit I repeated, my already tired joke, as I was tired, turning back to the blank pages spread across the desk.
I thought the world wanted something or I told myself that? Looking, again, out, or trying to look through the window interior lights made a mirror of mostly. What did or rather does the world want (of me) (of us) (everyone … artists … )? (“Anyway,” as said ‘with a frown,’ a sense already that whatever it might be it’s probably too much and I can’t meet these needs and what do you want with me “anyway” anyway what gives you the right … ?) And I’m off. I was dreaming, awake, or, awake I … Anyway I couldn’t hold onto my vision (if that’s what it was, with a shrug) released. “Remorse — ” says the poet, “is Memory — awake.”
To tell the truth, I’d say, a little roughly, shrugging, to be honest I’d say I’m sure I haven’t seen a ghost but had only imagined or even just wanted to imagine the possibility of (as in, I hadn’t convinced [even] myself ). Out here, though, as the composer said, at one of the communal meals, a story about someone having seen “something” outside their window could turn (over weeks of intense dinner table conversations among this increasingly ‘starved for adventure’ crew of writers musicians and visual artists) into “a pack of wolves.” For I was in excellent company though — it’s the point of such residencies — alone a lot. Time to think time to feel.
Time to write. Time to write and no intention of writing about … So I wrote about shadows on snow when I wasn’t revising the poems meant to go in the project I meant to finish, started and tried to write but left unfinished a long poem about being lost in the woods at night …
(I said stop.)
“It seems like something is bothering you,” you might say to someone you loved, sensing a disturbance (not buried but that’s how it might seem) “in” them or somewhere between the you and the I of an us. Or you might come to know slowly that there was something “in” yourself, ‘something’s bugging me.’ But …
The porch was empty when I went outside to look, oh yes I looked: it was nothing. Though I couldn’t quite convince myself. Probably only a reflection, probably just a trick of the light. And back it goes? (Down below the sill — oh don’t be silly!) (Into what?!) Where is it when it’s not? How in me still when the whole fact of it now is that it vanished? “Ourself behind ourself concealed,” I quoted the poet, her words a puff or so of visible air near my face for a moment, alone on the screened-in porch. I could imagine then the self as a sort of ghost or clumsy hand-puppet, something like a corner of the tablecloth — not quite clean — draped over a lifted hand (but whose) at dinner as the author (as if I might … ) acts the thin anecdote out.
Oh, I could tell you a ghost story … but …
What I actually saw (you can’t talk about stuff like this: there’s no narrative) was something like — if it was in fact anything at all — pure movement, all possibility. The chance of madness maybe. And, oh, Nothing. Quick. Just a flash.
Though I had the sense that ‘nothing’ was marked distinctly as an absence, recent enough to be remarked though the presence (if there had ever been one) had completely escaped.
Tragic to see it (what?) like that, I thought. And then the word “tragic” seemed so out of scale it was laughable, ridiculous. Maybe seeing a failure to have actually witnessed (if only on the edges of a vision called ‘out’ by an imagined shift) is a beginning?
But (I wrote) I’m changing the story now or it’s moving, transforming itself, or else …
I didn’t see anything. Really. I made up and then discarded a vision (I guessed I might be able to report)? And disregard. (Oh stop that! Come in here right now, I imagined calling.) Something left out. Exchanged for “reality”: was there some (I worried) faint hint of rose in the sunlit ice roiled up at each sapling’s base where each shadow had or seemed to have its mouth? And how would I say that …
Given the possible choices of how a “ghost” might act it interested me that I saw it first whole for an instant then broken up by the divisions of what I looked through. Framed miniatures which — when I saw it like that — immediately dispersed. Poof. Gone, the tone or texture of my telling seeming to lose a certain stickiness.
Well of course (“of course”?) I’d like to tell you a ghost story and then rescue or wrest some truth from it. Or I’d like to meet, exactly, your desire or what I imagine is your desire for me to do that.
And, it isn’t clear, I told myself, this world needs or wants us at all, pulling the door shut behind me and locking it.
There was so much I wasn’t talking about — then and now — part of me wants to say what I saw (if I saw anything) might have been just that reflected, that carefully cultivated, blankness. Hilarious, the thought, but the laughter in or behind that word (imagined as I write) hangs in the air a little too long as if from a smile held tight, becoming the “hollow laughter” I could have heard (so often what, in the stories, you do hear — if it isn’t a warning or revealed truth) from ‘my’ ghost. My little …
If I’d had a child … No, start over: if I’d had the child, our child (what a painful indulgence it is to say that, into what is “our” long silence) — it would have been what, ten or eleven years old then? And I wouldn’t have been at the art colony, probably, though I might have felt, for a while at least, a certainty about what I was doing here? In this world, I mean. And leaning out, I mean, opening a door and calling out into the bitterly cold dark, “Okay now, that’s enough of that!”? Each word a puff of what looks like smoke.
To be added to that long poem at some point, I thought: new snow over fallen pine needles, keeping them vague but visible as if they had been pressed into layers of translucent rice paper, the more recently fallen needles on top of that, very sharp, fresh … random clarities across the blurred collections of scattered pasts.
The years will make of these moments, so fragile, dispersed and almost incoherent, something purposeful, in their own way gorgeous — and it won’t exactly be a lie, although it won’t, on the other hand, be easy to recognize as the truth. All these glimpses, each I thought I saw, just for an instant … , each briefly revived or rediscovered, complicated, never entirely certain, regret.
Disbelief itself makes a figure I hadn’t figured on, in its power to haunt. A power it owed in no way I knew to art.