Thursday, December 04, 2008



A man thinks, of a wall.

He might rush - another man would rush - dash out for bricks, come back, realise he didn't buy cement, rush out again. What bricks? Does it matter? Do they matter? Just bricks, you know, bricks. A wall is a wall is a wall.

And cement. You need cement, I guess. And you end up with some sort of wall.

No, this man, he thinks. Why a wall? What kind of wall? A wall for shade, or in the shade? Straight, curved, straight and curved? Ornate, or a plain-Joe wall, red-bricked, solid, neat white pointing. What kind of foundations? How deep, how wide, single brick or doubled? Spaces? Ties? What does the wall want? What will the wall say?

Will people look, say, "Nice wall!" or will the wall merely protect, watch backs and small people picnic on fine grass before it? Will they breathe out as the flop before the wall; drop onto blankets, sigh, feeling something is solid here, and the view, the view, the wall behind them, a mother's skirt they don't know they hold?

Brick. Red is usual, but there are many browns, yellows, grey. Or stone, should we think stone? Brick and Stone? Stone & Brick? Are we looking ahead, thinking of sticky-footed ivy, tacked trellises, roses, Russian vines? What shall the wall carry? Does the wall need to look good now (but one day it will be beautiful) or can we have a bare wall, an under-garment, because we know what comes next, a year, two, ten, a century on? If a wall is ugly now, will they leave it to become beautiful? If we make it pretty now, will it last to become beautiful? Is pretty now death for his wall?

Or perhaps he can hide his will-be-beautiful-one-day wall. Make the wall of a house, the house of a street, the street a village (but he knows it's all about his wall). He can laugh, "It's just a wall. A wall is a wall is a wall," and avoid those questions, refuse to talk when people say, but it feels more than just a wall, did you?

He has always been fascinated by walls. Tall red walls round English country gardens, dry walls across Bronteian moors. Neat yellow-bricked and fawn walls in tidy gardens, walls under green, surrounding old orchards, marble walls and steel walls, and walls of ice, even water-walls.

Inner walls and outer walls, thick walls, thin. Speedy walls and slapdash, crusty walls, lath-and-plaster, crumbling walls, rubble.

Once he looked at walls without seeing. A wall is a wall is a wall. Then one day - was he in love, was it hot? something was different - he just felt things, felt the way walls were, sensed the way walls are, how walls would be. And he started drawing his walls. To be frank, he drew walls poorly. He sketched, he caricatured, he misrepresented. He painted a little, but he was not an artist. He took photographs, read about walls in books, watched films about walls, listened to the radio, but mostly he just lived with walls, learned how to touch them, sense their breathing, understand where they had come from, rubble and mud, shepherds' bones, clay, chiselled ash, flint, horse-hair.

Now he is ready, a wall calls, a wall waits.

He sits in the sun. If a wall was here, just so, like this, here would be a pleasant spot. He feels a wall coming to him. He is desperate to begin, but he will not rush. He will not even imagine.

Instead, he drinks a little wine. He eats a little cheese. He breaks bread.

And pyramids, temples, Berlin, all float in the air. He sees brethren, ropes and pulleys, a barn flying upright (another burning, screams), and castles battered, undermined, and peace walls and ghetto walls, graffiti, paper, lacquer, hotel walls, a black, shining wall in the Capitol, names, names, names, and he breathes softly, a shepherd, a mason, a joiner, a poet, a man. He nibbles, sips, and then the wall begins to whisper, "I am ready. I will be."

692 words

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