A Curious Dexterity

An eternal being finds his purpose and has to live with the consequences.


1. A Curious Dexterity

The skies were. They just were. Dropping on hangers from space like the roof of a majestical tent. Raven saw nothing in the pavements, head kept tucked tight into coat, nothing at all. He saw his feet rolling under him, his hand moving out the corner of his eye. The bright images, adverts, and noise, noise, noise he would only see a mad future. On this November morning it was different. Today, at precisely eleven o’clock in the morning – he saw something. Something found and then lost. Something of such height and depth and quality that it would change him forever.

Once he had walked vast fields and spoken words like pearls, cast his hand widely, ordered deaths, understood how to carve out a man’s soul, once he had not hated himself.

Cheap shoes, Brixton streets and once he had looked into the eyes of gods. One of the trials was that he had to inhale this unclean air; toxins – chemical and existential, invading a physiology that had once been above mere skin, bones, lungs and teeth and fingers. Insecurities wrapped around feeble loves hobbling to his brain-gate, hatreds and adorations, thoughts (most of which were unspecial) sitting beside his own. There was no escape.

A camera out of focus, not ready for infinitely layered music, the extreme chaos of movement, the perfect geometric resemblance to the divine. Today he saw something.

He saw her.

Coming though each object and each moment, spiralcolurbeautiful, something leaking from the cracks in the pavements – super warmth and smiles and laughter, a continuing revolution, utter music, abject sound, too close, far too close , he saw her , felt her, dreamed her, lost her, found her and then the moment was gone like a pulse.

“I just read bits of things man. Bits of things that sound good”. A pile of books Stacked in time. Time stacked in books.

Words. Curl-curling and folding out. Stretching in his brain, tastes and textures, filling small delicate corners. He can’t get enough of her, the way she thinks, the energy, the sound of her mind, the fall of her feet and the rise and fall of her breath. How could he keep his mind on this book when she was alive? How could he follow the journey of a single sentence when her shape coated all the molecules that moved and did not move in his little universe? Once he had given the light away; wasted it on eons of time, played with meaning and signification like toys that meant nothing. Sometimes the stars danced in his mind, lines linking them together in random triangles and squares and circles. Was she somewhere in those stars? Dare he even look?

He was reading Joyce, he would not finish the whole thing but this slice, the slice he was devouring right now was divine. As if the author had picked his words from the mind of gods and arranged them, like so, on a page, ready to act upon unsuspecting souls. Like so, just here and there, planted such and like and hereto etcetera, sinking slowly into the page, rhythm fantastic, semantique fantastique, and this slice that he was about to bite, Irish and epic and connected to the stars. ‘Love entangles me,’ he thought, ‘it entangles me and makes me drunk.’ Arms circling the dark air he sung it a few times in a self-made tune and pondered in between each monstrous burst. Fitting into dark matter. Alive and giddy with a love of something long adored. That some-other yawn of hell jinxed by time’s mother country - truth.

Which decade is it? Does it really matter? He decided that it did not. It most definitely did not matter as long as there were flowers and purple and literature. There were many items missing from this list of satisfaction, it was not comprehensive, but it was a spontaneous thought and thoughts of that kind must come out uncooked. What time and what place. The permutations over the years had been endless.

Among the deep rooted colours alongside the Nile in Egypt, a drunk captain and a job for a newspaper in a broken down stone hut, Paris and London and Geneva and Oslo and Basildon and Daventry. The massive and history heavy alongside the young and new built. This makes a life, even for others, not like him, this is the way – the magical alongside the ordinary.

She was magical and she made him tell her, lose everything in a single whisper, (then the guwaffmistt) this was his term for The Fall, because this is what it felt like and sounded like and tasted like (guwaffmistt) like roses dying and like wet bread, like seeing someone dead for no reason, like none of those, like the worst thing that is. Memories were an interesting new toy. He had always been able to recall but now the recollections were attached to emotion, to deep or light or smile making feeling. One that came to mind was a day in London, jokes and comfortable conversation as they went round in circles through Soho and gay bars and streets they had seen before. She had said walking would be preferable to standing in the armpits of somebody neither of them knew on a tube. There was an idea in her head of a straight road from Holborn to Covent Garden. Even now he has never found that road. He had found two straight roads. Up one then left or right or something – straight enough. That day everything fell into place, it was as if all time had waited for this one instant to perform a coincidence of perfection and that it was restricted to an invisible bubble that encased just the two of them. Later he would learn that this was called love. That love could change everything and that everything needed to be changed from time to time to stay healthy. As they wondered the plaza and descended the steps to his favourite wine bar, he knew that nothing would ever again be this kind of bliss, after this day complete happiness and peace would never again be attainable, this was as good as it was ever going to get – because, without telling her, he had used it all up in one go. If he had been human he suspected the sentiment may have been the same, so heightened, so full of tiny marvellous atoms was she, so like himself but without the responsibility.

‘It is wide,’ he thought, ‘like all the other great rivers I have seen, been a part of and gathered life up in’. Dusk was always the best time by the Thames. The change from something to be a backdrop to revelry to the blossoming maiden of the night, her gleaming eyes and folded moving gowns that ripple on in reflections and the quick throwing of light. That part between, where she is less ignored but not enough adored, he loved to taste it and listen to the cars and the people, ah the people, and stand and stand and stand – timeless, serene, all knowing and invisible, he loved time and colour and being, at least he did not object and seemed to enjoy prolonging them and certain other things. In another distant singing time he had sat on a park bench, his body touching another, holding hands in the sunlight. She had looked at him in such a way that his eyes would dilate and un-dilate to accommodate the rhythm of her shining face. Her brown eyes fixing him, unblinking and honest, made in higher places than those of others – places to which only he and a small number of others had been. When she kissed him she moved her whole form towards him and shaped it round his. He felt complete. The river undulated, half-grey, and half green and the substance of her rested on him like a bird resting on a thin sky wire. He breathed out. Satisfied. Surely not a feeling. How was she penetrating centuries of practised emotional vacancy?

Dusk. River. Fifty years ago, here, listening to fewer cars, more birds, in the dusk and by the wide maiden he decided to use it all up. To murder human-ness because it was his turn. Because he saw her and she was the one.

Due to the fact he only read bits of stuff Joyce was now in the hands of a charity shop and he was leafing through Ovid. After that light snack he polished off some Hegel and Stephen King. The coffee and desert that day were the inscriptions underneath the paintings in the National Portrait Gallery.

“Why do you want me to close my eyes?” “Do you trust me?” she said. “Yes. Do you trust me?” Outside there had been the sounds and whistles of Gay celebration, rainbow flags and Trafalgar square full of progress. He remembered the bad old days of prejudice and ignorance. He had been there, with them, knowing them – he smiled and asked her to take a photo of the rainbow flag that had been hoisted from a tall tower he did not know the name of. She bent to and fro looking into her camera to get the light right and amongst the noise and throng decided it was too much effort in the spreading sun. He didn’t mind, he had just been looking at her back, her hair, the moving limbs and the easy, smooth loci of her entire body as it sailed through the world. He smelled colours as she spoke them, the soft circle of her voice describing, Jesus featured a lot in some rooms and ships in others, and he could smell Turner anywhere, in a lead box, a mile away the power of his art would reach him. There was a kneeling monk in brown and shadow, silken garments so real on canvass that he heard her gasp and an experiment with a bird and a vacuum. The girl at the table is covering her eyes. “She must love birds,” he heard her muse. “There is more Turner in the Tate,” he said.

So, to his pleasure later, again, same game, eyes closed in the Tate she had said, “When I first saw it my darling from a distance it looked like an eye. In the centre of a swirl there is a shadow, and its sail is there but not there. And going up from the sail is a brown line that funnels wider into an insane sky – have I told you that I love you today?”

He wanted to tell her he had seen that painting when the paint was still wet, that he had chosen to move through the artist at will, that it was he that had made Turner blind by constantly invading his eyes. “This painting. May I see it?”

O’ glory, the image of her face, out of focus, an extreme chaos of movement – spiralcolourbeautiful, the most beautiful thing bar one that he had ever seen. That was a bit more used up.

After waking up and singing to her the final shred was gone. There was a curious dexterity to the way in which she moved, like she had been moving forever, he loved her so much. To destroy two amazing aspects of the universe in one moment would be dizzying. She would go in the fashion known to his kind and he would cease to be of his kind and live forever, alone, with his pictures of love. She was such a who that was burning with the question, when he had picked her he knew it would be the one, because if the question is correctly formed, known almost from some past, then it must be answered. She knelt on the bed clothes and leaned to his ear. “I have a question. I have been wanting to ask it all day but couldn’t form the words my love. Now I can. May I ask?” (Guwaffmistt). He could hear the Too Much breathing in the silence of the dark. “Yes,” and he wanted to say please don’t tear us asunder like this, rip bone from skin and sky from sea, please talk about something else, then the warm, delightful breath on his neck and ear, his obligation to tell and the all-used-upness of his ration, “Yes – ask.”

(Guuuuuuuuuuuuueeeerrrrrrrrwaffffffmi-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-isssssssssttttttttttttt) STOP.

( )

A whiteness, a silence, and his mouth at her ear now, the pause –

Her eyes, dark wondermous eyes, wide, unbelieving, full now of fear for the Too Much was coming the Too Much was coming and he watched her vanish into the fire, mouth open, eyes open, the final expression before the awful conflagration vanishes, of joy and then pity for him and then


Fifty years later he is at the river again. His hair is grey and his mind full of words and memories and smells and life. But he had missed her, struggled every day to be without her glow and buzz, and it had taken its toll. Once he had been something different.

The answer to a question asked every eternity, and then someone had asked it.

The high wall, the brown water lapping, the hundreds of lines of words he had scrawled over the years since she left, since he became a thing of feeling and sight and touch and sound. Somehow in the dusk he lifted like he used to and when the water welcomed him he saw her.

He saw her, felt her, dreamed her, lost her, found her and then the moment was gone like a pulse.  

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