Lowry at The Sylvia
"... he knew how to act, and I how to write: we were destined for each other." -- Don Quixote de La Mancha "Perhaps Don Quixote wouldn't have hesitated so long. . . . A character for whom I've the greatest respect by the way." -- The 1940 Under the Volcano "Don't you see it'll kill two birds with one stone -- a stone, Cervantes!" -- Under the Volcano, 1947 The life I've led and the one I remember separated like the ply of thread in the lucid heat between the third glass and the fourth, requiring a fifth as per the natural rhythm, even if it has to be the piss they drink in Vancouver. My friend, those clothes are wearing you, said my friend, who is also my enemy, whose name only signifies outside the fiction in which I'd like to leave him. Like war, he makes no distinction between public and private places, and has acquired an ancestral quality, the unshakeable me and not-me. Let us convey our sorry aspects back to Dollarton, under twin flares of the Shell refinery, where we can think. If it's to be our deathbed, we'll make it last, said he, raising a mescal to the salt plain of English Bay, to the freighters, monstrous and priestly, full of the word of a new world. Reality is a theory retroactively applied; to invoke it is to do nothing but clear one's throat. And when I abandoned the one decent bar in this city of pulp mills and hotel managers, he pursued me through the eastern neighbourhoods' poisonous Canadian broth of neglect and over-legislation until I wanted back what I thought I had, and didn't care if it was real, whether I gave it away, or it was taken from me.
He Remembers A Friend From His Travels
Dispersed atoms sluggishly reconvened, I woke to a human noise originating outside me, for once, and a bundle over to which I hauled my body's carbons. A griskin. Hard bread. For 30 years an otter brought fish to Paul the Hermit. Yes, well -- and neither can I subsist on grasses and spring water as did Kentigern. Another story there. His poor mother. What a place this is. Unwilling to let me expire in their vicinity or in the hope it buys favour, people leave food. I wish they wouldn't. I wish they would. Some remember me from when I was a person. Their backs to me now, a child's small frame, or yards of female fabric indicating wind direction. Jesus is love but bank the coals or die. Hands wrapped in rags, collecting stones for a cache against wild pigs and others, light to moderate snow horizontally north-south. I recognize this rough farm cloth, its provenance. A wife from the hill of daughters whose husband walked a path as though to shame it, although you did not sit, did not loosen your coatcollar before first talking to her. I must not soften my blisters with water, she said, and her environment molested by druids. Worship? Please. It's an excuse to drink in public. The earth may provide for them but by Christ's fingernails not what grows from or grazes upon my own. Low-balled dogwalkers, granary robbers, fucking mannequins, skeets, litterers, they bang on about human sacrifice but I seriously doubt they're that effective. Specious lawsuits, the serving of writs more likely and their degrees are probably stolen. Brother, their poetry is truly awful. Her warm kitchen, honey and dry leaf smell of cut barley. A spade leaning in a corner representing mortality. Eejits lying drunk and sunburned by the dyke, one a stretched rope, one a shrivelled root, another an angry little spider, you laugh, but I take my washing in when they approach, the ill-shaped shitty-arsed leprous perverts, hirpling like carthorses in their bad shoes. Schoolboys pelt them with rocks, and I understand. To look at them is to have one leap into your hand. You'd think if Columba's powers banished demons from a well he could have ridden Dunino of the druids. The good and lowly vegetables she prepared. Memory. I would rather starve now than suffer it.
He Abandons the Cult of Saints
"His fame then, who raises the dead, gives sight to the blind, makes the lame walk, and cures the sick; before whose sepulchre lamps are continually burning, and whose chapels are crowded with devotees, adoring his relics upon their knees; his fame, I say, shall be greater both in this world and the next..." -- Don Quixote de La Mancha I can't say now if there ever was innocence in it. Burning the self as though it were a city. Believing the past, once destroyed, returns, but remade, and better. We Companions of God appeared, even to ourselves, to suffer our visions as actual conflicts. Confronting dragons as did the Child Jesus, improving on St. Serf's arguments with the devil, striding broad tracts of land in pleasure and in duty to the people to whom we brought direction and focus, evidence of those who lived and died contrary to nature's precedents. The faithful were visited by these spirits. They received special talents. They got a lot more done. But the veneration of relics became a trade in relics that eventually suggested our dear saints possessed, in addition to various divine attributes, more than the usual number of working parts. Whose were they? The fingerbones and blood-soaked cloth? The several tongues of St. Anthony? Corpses piled up until the whole world was a tomb. Death lost its autonomy; strange to say, it sickened, the boundary between this world and the next no longer firm. Between place and no-place. It reduced people's ability to think metaphorically. They believed the things they said because they said them. And as my colleagues seemed no longer capable of speaking naturally, in the middle voice, the blood of my own voice drained away.