and the light comes down burning
Her voice lifts up like a rag. I am half held. Delirious with thought. But some things are clear, her sound is one them is it moving her feet across the wet dew grass of the courtyard in the early not-quite light already yet I thought I am thinking now, as I think she walks. Around her waist under the black layers of heavy cloth is a chain is metal is a lock is a key. She lets in and lets out. I do not wish to control my borders, but I have and I will. I cannot hear her walk, I hear her sing, I see her walk. Steady, deliberate, before anyone else is awake. The blossom is the first to leak itself out of the darkness. Betrayal is a bloom in my mouth, it slips out, it billows and plumes, my lips are a pillow you say. Her voice is high and light and surprises me, coming out of such heavy set silence. I think I must go to the chapel as soon as I can.
Nothing is in order, clearly. Side-steps and deferrals will be the way these vibrations tangle.
S asks me into her room one evening. She is host, keeper of the keys, her room is next to the chapel. There is a hardness in her that makes me wary and soft. She asks me to help her care although I hear her say help her watch and keep surveillance; I wonder what care actually means and my mouth hurts from smiling more than I need to when she is talking. I am leaving when it catches my eye on the wall, a blurry photograph and I do not know her well enough to point out or comment on her intimate things but who is it, I ask? Joan of Arc. Her gold breastplate clear now cutting through the stone image.
I am walking in a diagonal across the big studio, I am a caretaker and taken for granted I am old, I say I am bitter I am hunched, I pinch the point at my breastbone, it is a third nipple, I am not sure if I'm a man or a woman, it is a third nipple it is a beak it is a breaking through.
We sit on the grass at the edge of the river at the point where it splits. I know I love her, I think quietly and the city rises up around us in a bloom.
I walk in a diagonal from the house to the chapel in the early not-quite light. The door is locked and I don't believe at first so I just stand there, looking at it. To my right I realise there is another door, to a different part of the chapel I had not seen before. I enter and see her sitting by the bed. The room is empty. A wood burning stove, a sink, a bed, a chair. I walk to where I have seen her sitting. This part of the room is too full and can only be broken up and scattered with song. I sing before we know it. Out of the windows on either side are two blossom trees like pillows my lips your mouth [you sing upstairs in my house while I clear the room downstairs, this is weeks ago, I think of it now] my skin cells blossom and unfold under your tongue. The room is cold and dark and the blossom can be travelled through outside I see her holding it in her hard, large hands, softening deep and silent. She walks diagonally across the courtyard from this room to the house I watch her black robes heavy as she goes but lifted there is no song this time, what beak at my chest to heave out a sound it comes in wings it comes in plumes it comes like velvet smoke rising it reaches out of her in a line of flight, black eagle black raven black crow bigger than the monuments.
S asks me if I went to Notre Dame. Did we talk about this? I don't know what to cook and eat for dinner. I scratch around. It might have been the last time she says. Did I forget about something? Garlic. Rice. First things first. Joan of Arc comes to mind. Is she there and I forgot? We are on the banks of the river the city in a bloom I mean to say my love blossoming knowing and quiet you want to go there. It is very sudden how you say this. You want to go there, even though it is touristy. I am surprised. I forgot about this sacred heart of the city. Of course we can go, we are close. We walk to the grass we lie down with feathers in my chest. You talk about your family. The religious side. I don't know why we forget to go there. I didn't go, I tell S. It is on fire, she says. It is rising like smoke into the horizon of the sky.
I am walking across the studio, in a diagonal line. I am walking backwards, tracing the origins of the language and the way it rolls out at some point I cannot speak. I cannot speak at the point where I become a woman, corsetted, bone against bone. Before that are the dinosaurs, and a huge black bird on the horizon.
My great-aunt Lilian was adopted by the Slade family, perhaps after their daughter committed suicide. Lilian was awarded a medal of honour after serving in France in WWI.
I collect blossom for her after she walks across the garden and the bird leaps out. I place the blossom at her bed. I walk into the chapel on my way out and the stained glass shows the saint, holding a piece of white blossom at his heart.
I brought these back from the forest for you when you felt unsafe. I know there is a tree in your garden. I know the doors swing open.
I walk diagonally across the big studio, walking the line of time. I arrive as a warrior, I am a woman I wear a breastplate, I say, I trace the design of the breastplate, the shield at my chest, I know I am a warrior. This is an empire battle, I say, this is the eagle at the helm or a plume at my head. I don't know if I'm a man or a woman. I don't know. At some point I speak only sounds pa – pa – pa bouncing on pillow lips until it comes out, papa, father, Pope. It is a battle of empire and Pope.
Just before she leaves we visit the chapel to sing. High light sounds. On the way out we look up and see her. Joan of Arc. Gold breastplate with the sun behind.
Patron saint of many things, including women who gave their service voluntarily in times of emergency. Patron saint of Lilian Slade. Rosa Slade wants to go to see Notre Dame. She says my lips are pillows. There is blossom in her garden. Five days after we kiss for the first time I open my mouth and the words spill out.
It is a forest fire, I say, when S tells me about Notre Dame. I understand she has said the cathedral is on fire, but like the time she asked for care and I heard surveillance, this time she says cathedral and I hear forest. It is a forest fire, I say; well yes, she says, the roof is made of so many hundreds of oak trees they used to call it the forest. S tells me the osteopath opened her heart and an old thing very old spilled out, an old thing that went all the way through from front to back, like an armour, like a shield.
I dream I am holding a baby in the shallow water. It is not mine, but nobody else is looking after it, so I help it bob in the waves it can still live underwater. I hope nothing belongs to me ever, or I learn to know this as the groundwork of my being. I know I love this baby and it lives against my chest. I will have to be big, I think, to make enough space for this love inside, enough space for the bird with wings bigger than monuments, enough space for the cathedral of the ribs to crack and open.
I'm tired and there are many more threads to say but mainly I want to make a film of her walking diagonally across the garden just that; in the mist and before she has to be who she has to be.