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Just when you think your love’s in vain
Look out here comes the desert rain

here it comes
—Hannah Marcus

Sometimes a thing can change [click] —justlikethat. You can hardly believe you are seeing with the same pair of eyes …

Darling —? [She rubs her eyes] Welcome home.

or are you really seeing hers? But without the memory, or rather a personal understanding of it, well, how could you tell …

Shall I —. Would you like me to …. Are you coming to bed now?

She was born in the desert, out of wind and loneliness and the good intentions her parents were too young to guard themselves against. In flat landscapes people put honesty out to dry. He is good with children, she had said, even if not with women or games of chance. And looking alone can make your mind turn sour. As for himself, he was recently back from Vietnam, half blown-up and wearing a beard to hold his face together. His brains still travelling there in sleep — daubing on the camcream, hurrying, thrown trees to either side and verbless passages of night. At the still point are studs of disused equipment, abandoned fires, pins, limbs, the mouthpiece to a telephone which is ringing somewhere else and flares drift, about the the apex of his unlit fear …. Even now to wake him she goes to the far side of the room and calls — his child this is, his daughter. His wife wouldn’t come near.

What time is it? You’re — you’re wet?

At the time they met he was working in national parks and she could plausibly have been conceived in any one of the twelve most beautiful places in the American West. As it is this does not occur. She is instead conceived in her grandparents’ bed among arcs of iron rust. Her parents fuck with the image of themselves ghosted in the window, mocking, vile, opprobrious until glozed over by condensation; as though the sweat of their failing love would shade them. He falls away exhausted, blinking jungle, and feels his skin to be like the cut face of a peach, fleshbreathless and naked where the stone has been removed. He puts his hand to the pane and lifts away moisture, an endless palm of desert behind.

Have you been out you’re cold come closer —hhah …

Her first five years are a blur of happiness. The yard backs into the horizon, maculated only by cacti and shearing wells of mirage. She wants when she is older to skate them and ties her shoes neatly now in preparation. The image of her at this time is childskinny in socks with one foot shied on the toe, sifting the folds of her red skirt, her fingers dusted, and still learning the complexities of their own articulation. But she scores a deckle-edge in the history here and it parts along the crease. Lost frays of paper later reconvene to form part of the sense that she is missing something. They are the first wefts in a mat of falsified loss. Her father will now leave her mother for a divorcee with two children, the same rough ages of herself and her sister. They will have nothing in common save spite, and the distempered bedrooms of a Flagstaff maisonette. If the desert loved her before it will now show her its back.

Touch me god you’re cold have you been reading all this time?

Education is calculus and the gradients of different books, the areas underneath them. Boys are something of the same. She loses her virginity at the age of fifteen, which is an eventlessness cleft by volumes of blood. If she knew at the time whose house it was, or whose sheets … a focal point for volumes of unwashed guilt. A part of her is spilled and spreading into linen, darkening in this scrap of past. She feels the ineradication of a fact she can see evidence of but cannot share its history. The boy is a vagrant twenty and thin as a whip; there is little else to remember. He annihilates himself the following day by leaving town and dust regathers in the vacuum of his wake. She has already lost all she might have given him

I’d love— if you’d— christ enough to kiss you and I’d be drunk what is it in you —

and later when love hits, she is standing still for it. She is in Tuscon Arizona by now standing in the final streak of day, light vanishing from her face, her eyes closed, her arms wide open and lips … her shadow heeled to the due east street. It hits her like a bluff of wind and she is sent sailing, cresent-shaped and deliriously free. After three years it will pass over and she finds herself winnnowing the empty air with her hands. He leaves for Russia for the Ural Mountains where he will fall —, for a one-armed girl. She uses it to knock him down. The other, the one you know, leaves also, for New York City. Before going she visits the desert one last time where she buries a letter, her hair, and a t-shirt stained with his semen. She packs the dust over them well and lights a fire; in the downwards score of heat they ash silently, without loss of structure. The process without her knowing the word was termed eremecausis by ancient Greeks. Above the fire flicks and yaws on the desert’s back, and loose skirts of dust scumble away behind her. She is the windwand; the one tall point in all these versts of night.

makes even the desert seem more alive?

She finds a job in a real estate agents in Noho. She rides the JMZ, sometimes the Q-train to visit Brighton Beach. But it is August and drab light on disused ferris wheels seems too predictable. Winter comes, and for the first time in her life she feels cold. By this, and by the starlessness of city scuds, she knows that she has left home. Her hair is growing back, her life normalizing into a different thing. And do her eyes change once here? One afternoon on Delancey she stops between an Indonesian restaurant and a nights-only pharmacy and asks, Christ what have I done? Her hand goes to the metal caging over the windows, flipping down through graduated halts and somewhere the sun creaks behind a disused sky (…there is the cold again). Christ what have I done. She decides to go to Guatemala with her mother.

I can go if you don’t want me here I can —no, wait where’s my — I can —. Stay?

She stays for two months, idle and steeped in sun. She learns some Spanish, loves her mother, finds a Guatemalan man to hold between her legs. Entire days spent fucking, fucking the sun down, spent in the orbit of each other’s sex, and she comes over and over and then comes to, with the leaves blackening outside. Time is like being drunk in the afternoon. It is like hot-air balloons. It is like anything that comes gratis and carries you. She befriends also a pig which likes to be scratched and fed pork rinds. It likes especially to roll in mud then stand and feel cakes drying across its back. Africa-shaped, Greenland, Australia …. It follows her often in the streets and knows which parts of the village she likes best, better perhaps than she does herself, and will go there looking for her. Before she leaves the pig in castrated in the most traditional of ways and she contracts malaria. Her final days are spent sprawled in her own shit and vomit, in tides of hallucination, leaking through warped rooms.

Here, it unfastens at the back, and you, take this off too, there, kiss me —

When she gets back to New York she sends the mercury singing all the way to the ends of its aisles. One hundred and four one hundred and five! Fields of fever. She understands once again the freedom she knew formerly in love; the leaving off of all responsibility, like unhitched clews thrown from a ship as she quits port. Her daydreams flackering like sails, and a cruddy mire of excrement to float in. Were she sane her own bed would appall her. But she is better before she is lucid and it is the inconstancy of her life rather than her colon that rowels her. She elects to do an MA. It would seem to be something to do with all that needless intelligence.

Why do you never give me your tongue?

She learns to incorporate terms like hegemonise, dirigisme, mis(t)reading haecceities into her discourse, though their length remains bumpy to her and she finds herself aiming at words. On two occasions she is in the library when a student commits suicide by leaping through the voided core of the building. Perspex guards are then installed along once open corridors. The first time it happens people in the libraries hear a noise, and then continue working. The second time they don’t let it in. Weekends she is at a café called Phoebe’s, where they cook eggs with blasts of steam from the coffee-maker. The ceilings bubble and sigh and wending from the door are gentle curls of vapour. It is here she meets the female painter, and passes through an affair with her, with her hands by her sides. For two years she is pollen on the wind. She is a product of vectors.

Have you been out finding truths in the night? And did you bring one back for me? What makes you come back.be here.fuck me — don’t stop.

One afternoon in November she is standing at the entrance of a shopping arcade, trying to open an umbrella. I offer to help her, and we share its cover to the subway station. The rain can be a gift she smiles. And all that umbrous ruin in the sky. We meet again to watch a film, a third time for dinner and sex, and thereafter at random intervals, for reasons ill-defined. This night, and others like it,

And now always such a stack of sighs. Switch off. Be lonely …

when the glacier knocks in the cupboard. The deserts sigh on the bed …. Auden sinks in the mouth of the open dawn. Well ain’t that close to love? Ain’t that the ghost of love?

Sleep now.

21 November 2003