Monday, 28 July 2008
season of glass
Walking down the hill through the middle of Totnes today, I encountered a stalled lorry blocking the road. It had obviously wheezed its way up most of the hill, and expired. The trailer read ASSORTED GLASS. As I passed by, I noticed a stream of milk pouring out of a gap under its rear doors, then trickling into the gutter. Gallons of it. A river of split milk coursing through Totnes. Like a long liquid finger tracing a luminous line through the traffic to the River Dart.
I have a photograph in front of me, taken from the interior of an unknown room in New York.
Through the window, the downtown city skyline is a faded grey blur in the middle distance, afternoon shadows there and not there. Could be a forest. Could be a water stain. Could be a mirage.
On the windowsill inside the room, much more imposing than the fugitive city, a glass of water, half empty or half full: a lens that quietly distorts the spectres in the distance.
Beside it, a pair of glasses balanced on the frame and arms, staring unseeing towards the viewer. The left-hand lens offers a perfectly focused miniature of the window sill’s rim and the skyline beyond, a tiny framed world. The right-hand lens is splashed with a dark liquid, an impenetrable blur like spilt paint. Or blood. An obstacle to seeing. One eye maimed, the left eye.
The photograph, called ‘Season of Glass’, was taken by Yoko Ono. The glasses were worn by John Lennon when he was shot. So. New York. Central Park. The Dakota Building. December 1980.
The memory of glass.
The glass of memory.
Everything is still.
As fragile as a dragonfly’s wings, a reflection in water, a promise. As brittle as a web of caramel, a pencil tip, a confidence. As transparent as the blue soup of the sky, as silence. Can be fashioned through fire into any shape and size and colour: a tiny crimson chimera, an imposing gold wave, a shimmering periwinkle veil. Can be used to contain, to frame, to enlighten, to focus, to build, to decorate, to stimulate, to protect, to obstruct, to warn, to pierce, to cut. Can be broken by dropping, throwing, crushing, colliding, the shock of water too hot, water too cold, polishing, touching, the clumsy fingers of forgetting. If left for long enough, will eventually break down into particles of sand.
once there was a girl called shatter and she lived in a glass house full of glass things and she had learnt to be careful learnt the hard way to watch her step her hands her clothes her every move and she moved like a cat all balance and listening and aware and eyes-all-over and breathing stillness and her rhythms were tight and right and all was shiney and transparent and in its place
everything was glass glass cutlery glass plates glass bed (a hammock of glass fibres suspended between glass posts) glass bath glass doors glass walls glass plants glass books glass dust
there was glass music and glass sighs glass giggles and glass light glass tears and glass dreams
the windows were glass spheres that turned everything outside upside down and made it smaller
the ceilings were lenses that magnified the sky the clouds the stars and made them bigger
the floors were mirrors that reflected the sky
when the sun shone everything glistened and sparked and refracted and hummed and when the night came and the wind and the rain the house chinked and swayed and danced like slow water inside and out and shatter chinked and swayed and danced with it
one day a small crack appeared in the living room ceiling only small but getting bigger and then the sky split in two and then the crack forked and then there were three skies with black rivers separating them and shatter could only watch as they grew and grew and jump over their reflections in the floor
then when the night came and the wind and the rain all three dripped through the cracks and onto the floor until the room was knee-deep in night and wind and rain then chest deep and shatter had to navigate from room to room in her glass bath first paddling with a glass bed post then rigging her hammock as a sail as the storm picked up and the house clanked and staggered and moaned inside and out and shatter clanked and staggered and moaned with it
at dawn the night level dropped and the wind eased and shatter slept and dreamt she was leaking and drowning in her own watery flow dreamt she was dissolving liquefying dispersing disappearing and when she woke up she felt refreshed
sitting up she saw the bath was beached high on a glass cupboard the damp floor a network of dark lines and fissures the walls stained by the water the windows murky and blurred
like a cat she climbed down the shelves
like a cat she walked across the floor and out of the glass door
outside everything was less shiney, slightly larger and the right way up
it would take her a while to get used to it
© David Williams, April 2007