Friday, 16 October 2009

Over the edge

At the time I didn't realise how ill I had become. It was a slow process by degrees. And even those small shifts created a vanishing aspect between the joints. I no longer articulated in the same way as I supposed others did, in which a memory compares one phase with another and draws conclusions. The park had become my everything; a bowl in which small figures rose and fell, coming over a mound and disapearing over the edge of the hill down that stark descent towards the canal at the side of which I used to work in a gated Special Needs children's project. Here you had to ring the bell to be let in or out, though one time a crazy man climbed over, bare-footed, saying he was looking for his shoes, then made strange hieroglyphics on the wall in the corridor from the wet mud covering his hands. He sat in the office and it was dark outside in the park along the canal and up the sharply ascending hill. The children had gone home but the staff were there. Even my superiors were silent and nervous, sureptitiously trying to dial for the police. I remember that I was able to talk to the man and he struck me as a sensitive man. Months later I had lost my job after trying to siphon off the best workers from the Special Needs children's club for my own project up the hill. That project has now closed.

From where I sit there is only the patterns of the small mounds that cut in from one another, allowing the eye to drift freely. After the descent, trains seem to collide, absorb one another and then part. There is a slight breeze and the leaves of the mature trees are already rattling in the early autummn. Warmth comes from the direct sun, then is replaced by a sudden cool breeze as if from a different level of the stratosphere suddenly plunged down. Over in the distance is the white house and on the flat lawn in front is an arrangement of white plastic chairs and tables looped by a low level metal fence where the the ends are bent over and woven back through one another and which has a small child-high gate that swings open and closed at one end whenever anyone passes through it.

I am perfectly still trying to absorb the sun for one last time or however many times are left before the warmth is drained from the light. My eyes are closed and I seem to be far back from the face which the sun like on any other surface, is hitting. I need to give it some time for the effects to be absorbed. It is altogether more evasive and more easily scared away than in summer.

That scattering in itself seems to become a way of noticing and over time because I am not going anywhere, it creates it's own kind of arangement of which I am not directlly the author of. It is more like the intermittant sun that passes over me, is enveloped by a cloud, then re-inserts itself to strike a different aspect activating first this portion than that creating it's own jointing in the on-off of this continual surfacing and dismissal.
How to follow it? Simply by remaining still and waiting to be enlivened or not. And so, very gradually I begin to recover.

Into the park following at first the path, a man introduces a large object. There are actually at least two objects but the way he is pulling them over the ground, heaped on to the wooden trolley with a rope looped around one end of the wood base then around his lower trunk, they are treated as one. A sizeable weight that needs shifting. On the cart there is an empty Pepsi dispensing machine with a blue background in speckled lighter and darker shades that give the affect of bubbles. The Pepsi logo is written upside down upon this background in red. On top of this but sliding at an angle so that one end nearly touches the pavement is another dispenser this one in yellow whose logo because it faces upwards, is not at first clear to me. Then in the progress of time I see that it says Shwepps. Gradually as the man hauls and tugs his load, leaning far backwards against it's weight so that only the heels of his shoes are on the ground and if the taught rope should break it would send him with practically no distance to go flat on his back, the vehichle moves.
I feel the strain down his neck, across his shoulders, along his back, buttocks, calves and ankles. It is apparent in his thighs, stomach muscles, groin and the veins on the front of his neck which are under strain down either side of his red exposed gullet. The back of his head is leant far back so that the grey tangled hair pulls off his face and snakes downward at times blacker where it is winding in and around itself, appearing moist, and at times lighter, the grey-fly away tufts of an older man.

I have never heard this man speak a word though he is hauling around goods from street to street on a daily basis and lives in a ramshuckle house one street from mine, the last series before the park, the marshes, the canal. There's a large pine tree beside his house whose branches are beginning to poke into the windows where the glass is smashed, the longer branches beginning to lean down on the top of the roof where tiles are dislodged and scattering.

The man is always walking backwards his back covered in sweat, his jeans halfway down his backside, dirt-covered pants digging into his flesh at the waist-line creating a red ribbon. On his upper body he has a mass of fragmented garments that compensate and stand-in for one another. Sometimes it is simply a mass of criss-crossing threads that he himself seems to have woven as a loose covering like a Cat's-Cradle around his tall and bony frame. He pauses often and at such times seems endlessly still because he neither gazes out nor in but simply waits for the exhuastion to take on a more workeable beat as his hard upper back heaves up and down. So he remains there until again he sets the momentum going and reverts to this pulling which he helps along by taking up the slack of the rope between the trolley and his trunk yanking it now and again, preventing the rope from chisseling into his waist as he turns just enough his two clenched hands inwards simultanously, so as to twist the rope around his hand joints. They cross at the lower width of his wrists revealing through that calculated double flexion the whiter undersides of his fleshy lower arms where his tattered jumper cuts out. The veins are blue and pumped up now all the way along from his wrists to his elbows. This part of him is the part where his technique is fully engaged and there is more expression, more placement of his on-going thought processes right here than in his face that is cast down in contrast to this opening out gesture that he performs with his two arms.


To begin again. I hear the rattle of the cart-wheels against the path. It does not go past me but over off in the corner at the far side by the hedgerow. No sooner do I look up than I notice the colours rising above the hedgerow, shifting. I do not see the man who blends in with the background and is not moving fast enough for me to notice a mis-match. In any case this mass of greenery is also moving. Being pushed and pulled this way and that, constantly re-aranged by the gusts of wind. That is nothing more really than an on-off breeze.

The sound cuts out. That is when I can pinpoint the vehicle. When again it starts up I see and recognise the man. No sooner have I done that and it stops again. I get used to it being stopped and gradually it fades out and that is when I skirt the low-level fencing where I detect another movement. The gate has just been swung open so that a small blond-haired child with scruffy hair has pushed his way through the opening on the other side of which there are the tables and chairs filled on this one last good day with people, children, prams and coloured balls, all crowded in amongst the food, the cups, the drinks.

Cutlery rattles and catches on the wind to reach even where I sit. The child who is wearing a pulled down over-stretchd blue sweat-shirt is probaby about five or six. He lurches one way while also seeming to gesture with his two arms the other way. That creates an opening in the stilted affect to any motion that allows it to remain even when it has gone. There's a kind of double-run. Something like seizure that than out of this hesitation and the missed moment of that vaccum, catapults action at incredible speed. The boy is being thrown around by the contradictions of his own body which at one moment wavers and at the next moment flies.
The man's cart starts up again, a sudden jerkiness that seizes and locks his back as a single surface and roots and twists the nerve muscles in the back of the neck. Then the thing is rolling according to it's own momentum. And the man and his part in it again fall out of significance. The colours-blue and yellow, the top colour slanted like a roof, begin to disaperar at first in part behind the growth then altogether. There is a pause and a suspension. This is filled, in part replaced, by the boys` lolliping manoeveres out into the middle of the field where he sinks behind a dip, rises again then sinks once more.

The boy then angles on to the weighed down almost crippled branches of a tree which is sprawling horizontally, shadowing the grass just at the point by the path where the man pulling the trolly a moment before disappeared. The boy begins to press down his feet to either side of the tree so that the entire trunk begins to move. All the leaves on that part of the tree are set in motion. He springs it up and down hard then as the momentum eases off, lies flat-wise on his chest against the bark of the tree, lulled for a moment by the movements he has set in motion that are gradually subsiding. I lose attention at the time when the tree motions smoothe out and the jolts becomes the more even swaying of the entire tree with the weight of the boy, length-wise, simply an add-on at a natural curve in the base of the tree.

I`m wondering when the colours will re-emerge. I`m trying to imagine how far along they are, cossetted in the folliage. Then just in front of the white house, on the path that travels inbetween that building and the small flat area where the tables and chairs are placed, the whole frame of the cart with it's load are suddenly visible. No one looks up from the chairs and tables many of whom have their back to the path. Then it is past and again only glinting through in part between cut-back foliage and incomplete hedgerows. There's an unevennness to the progress as the cart keeps grinding to a halt.

Then something unusual happens and unstead of the cart continuing along the path that rings around the small pond and eventually leads out to the main street, the man- though this is difficult-  pulls the cart across a final plateau which suddenly stops where seats with dense hedgerows grown as cover to wind turbulance are dotted at intervals before the descent; towards the canal, the marshes.

It is a lengthy process pulling the two soft drinks containers across that lawn which I happen to know is water-logged in the middle.

There is  a small dog that is ceaselessly running around the park it's legs and the lower half of it's short body thick with mud. It appears to have a routine because intermitantly it appears round from behind a tree, is swept past my bench to another tree which it circles, chasing squirrels before being eclipsed behind a mound or the shrubbery beside a path once again.

A boy with his dad bounces a ball hard against the stone path down over towards the benches with thick hedges. They come up along the path from the steep descent so as to suddenly appear. Each time the boy bounces the ball so that it jumps up high above his head his father snatches it out of the air then slams the ball down again and the boy runs ahead and catches it on the way back down for the second time or even several bounces later along the path where the father lags behind. As the father catches up, the boy whacks the ball against the pavement once again. Sometimes they both grab it from one another out of turn so that their steps weave in and out of one another even when they only snatch air in a state of seperation, catch up and clash. One thing always replaces another in this constant shuffling of elements.There is something spacious to their progress, along the path, in and out of step.

The man with the cart is travelling against the grain in which they move cutting over that lawn around which the path  loops. He pulls and stops. Pulls and stops. Finally the man is there at the edge of the descent and  having returned the cart to the path for one instance I see the containers outlined against the horizon, the slant of the yellow Shwepps dispenser suddenly catching the sun and making me blink. Then the angle changes and the colour fades out of the frame. It is a slow outline that I continue to watch until I am actually unsure wheter I am watching it or watching the space which it used to fill. But then suddenly like a last stuck piece that is suddenly sucked down a drain, there apears a marginal increase in glare just where the form has been sucked below the level of the horizen. There is this actual visceral sensation of a sudden absence which is known in that contrast- a kind of sudden exractor of substance in one simultaneous widening out.

The boy with blonde hair is circling the outer perimeter of the low-lying black fence in counter-direction to before. His finger runs along the looped top-end of the brocade work.  He slows. Stops. Then continues to the other end opposite to that tree he had once sat on.

The father and son with the ball get around to the part of the path just beyond the bench where I sit. Here at this point where the path drops off, the boy places the ball on the pavement and suddenly lets go.
It rolls away just as the father runs to catch up.

The small dirty dog which I know belongs to a woman with neat dyed fair hair stylishly layered whom I have not seen for many days and who often comes to the park to meet with elderly dog-owners continues to circle madly unable to stop even when I call  it.

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