on the doorstep of the world

stand on the street corner any street will do in any town in any frame of mind and accost the third woman who passes and ask her to show you her wounds and if she does you will see a half-eaten meal and a barrel of tar for the woman is a crown of rising dew who gathers the lilacs of evening beneath the newly-woken stars but still you turn your face away because this is not the woman that you meant

you follow your receding footsteps into an alley winding between houses made of books and meet yourself in a half-remembered room a room you knew when you were young and drawing down the blinds you light the lamp and in the blossom of its glow you accost yourself your demeanour grave and placing your hand on your arm you lead yourself from the room and walk to a car that is waiting by a kerb that stretches as far as the eye can see and at the very limit of sight birds the size of houses circle a dying whale

and the sky peels back like an orange and the hand of god descends and lifts up the whale

but ignoring this you turn your back on yourself and get into the car and the driver nods and unravels his tentacles and the nest of his body envelops the steering-wheel and you drive away leaving yourself behind

and you drive and drive all day until you reach the forest glade where the setting sun bathes its feet in milk and the exuberant trumpets of air descend from the moon to mate with the envelopes that flutter from flower to flower

a face appears

the eyes are closed the jowls lightly shaded in blue there is sweat on the upper lip

as you walk the face follows you sometimes eclipsed by the trees sometimes floating closer its forehead brushing your mouth and you can taste the odour of its disease and then you wake and by your foot is an axe and a carbide lamp and the colour of your sleep laps against the windowpane

so leaving your heart in a jar on the mantelpiece you climb through the window and follow the peak of the roof for a thousand miles until you reach an unusual fire escape with treads of sculpted butter and risers of veal and you descend the fire escape and find yourself in a hall where the forgotten years hang from the rafters like looms spinning a faint darkness that sifts down on your shoulders like dust and you live successive lives as a mason a squirrel and a mime and you spend an aeon pinned to the floor of the sea and the dark ships pass overhead and from time to time

the bodies of drowned mariners sink down to where you stand

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