Sunday, February 09, 2014

The Intercessor

The Intercessor

Visiting my mum today, I quietly opened the front door and snuck up on her like I used to do. In those moments, as I waited in the kitchen for her to turn around so I could make her jump, I realised she is 73, and I very quietly snuck all the way back out and rang the doorbell.

My dog, Larkin, is staring at the wall behind my shoulder. I say the command, “basket”, and she leaves the room. It is something to do with his unawareness that makes the back of my little boy’s head so dear, the hairline ending in three soft triangles, and there my love is allowed to pool undetected in the undulations of his nape, as he plays with his paper people on the windowsill; and I am thinking about how it would be to appear spontaneously to someone who is alone, a stranger who is feeling despondent, and as their counterfeit angel, confer genuine succour, and be convincing enough to inform a lasting faith. Perhaps, in order to mitigate the shock of seeing me in a vision, I should pre-empt my arrival by voicing something in the stillness? I would say it lovingly. I practice saying things lovingly across my own ears and conclude that the utterance I find most consoling is my name, evocative of mornings in my childhood when a parent or one of my sisters woke me up with hushed mien. Surely, a power enabling me thus to visit someone would not leave me at a disadvantage, but would also allow me to intuit the stranger’s name moments before I manifest myself?

I had three dreams in which I interviewed contrasting intercessors. In the first dream, the Unknown Soldier told me of a district he had been detailed to control.
‘I met a starving boy in Yarmouk who forsook
His future existentially:
"Make chemical weapons smell of bread,
Or can you stop the cavalry?" –
I could not.’
The next was an angel of grief. I asked her where she had roved afore. She replied,
‘This evening with a woman as she walked through Hook
Meadow, to the graveyard where she
Placed a lantern, glowing faintly red,
In a section especially
For children.
I heard her whisper “My baby, who sleeps in the February cold,
Here is your night light”, and I prayed for her, was all I could do.’
Eftsoons, having gone to my bed one night tearful with anger, I dreamt of the final presence. Whilst I was calmed by the equanimity of his bearing, with his hands in his pockets he explained to me that he lives, is still living, but that he is often called on to give reassurance to those who have passed over, which alarmed me. ‘And by your showing up now, am I to infer that I am dead?’, I asked. ‘No’, he said, ‘I only thought you might be interested to hear about my role.’ ‘OK, so tell me, do you feel you are able to help people?’ ‘I do. I tell them that they need not fear God.’ Although ‘not fear God’ was what I understood, the sound I heard was ‘Hoxmarch ipamis’.

Following that third dream, I spent all the next day feeling nauseous yet still hungry. Each time I ate I did so knowing that there was a possibility it wouldn't stay down, and so deliberately sought out food I have never really liked, sacrificing it to the inevitable future association with the pain of being sick. I had butternut squash for lunch and cheese crackers for tea, doing what was necessary to insure against a loss of my predilection for viands, quinoa and porridge.

O the ordeal of existence!, joy's refrain thwarted each time in its nascence by tremendous retches, and if there is consciousness after it, the tragedy is that we will associate our loved ones with that ordeal and they will be marred by this association, and we will have an aversion to them and to e'er going back into the horror of life. But maybe we do come back with alacrity, un-protesting and without fear, because, after the final intercessor has hinted that Love is eternal, all its adjuncts – the name of a person, along with all queasy memories of husbands, wives, children and friends – are taken away.

Brother-in-law, there is already someone looking tenderly at the back of your head, but I want to be there after your death, to remind you of Love and to take away your memories. First, I would remove your most cynical one.

Your memory of me, age eleven doing an impression of Rik Mayall,
Is reductive propaganda, and is not nursed fondly.
You make yourself appear magnanimous, whilst manufacturing the portrayal
Of me as a stolid adult, through your account of me
Telling Doctor Doctor jokes, Christmas 1982. Only I, a wary
Pragmatics-ferret and precariat on the cosine of the line of loyal
Sisterly affection, 31 years after those skits,
Only I see how details of a child’s exuberance are used as a foil
To your characterisation of me, now, as a schiz
oid malingerer, showing flat affect, caught obsequiously in the orbits
Of profitless “poetic” tangents.

Your life has ended. You are alone in a quiet waiting room. You can hear some background sounds, children playing and someone shaking a drawer loose from a desk in another room. And then you hear a voice, my voice, saying your name. You cannot see me.

And your name is the nature of my intercession,
That name you responded to to the end;
I am melancholy enough to say it so that you comprehend,
So that you are not startled.
I am loving enough and migrainous enough,
And whilst I have always been somewhere on the spectrum –
Too mad to hold down a job, too serious, bovine, almost sinister –
I am well suited to say your name now,
And you understand that it is the last time you will hear it;
And no one applauds after the first act of Parsifal,
And they re-recorded Gram Parsons's vocals;
And Love is the hapax here, Love is the palimpsest
For your name. Hoxmarch ipamis.