I thought of you in hospital when I saw your dying image hanging on the wall. But now I wonder if it wasn’t quite rude of you to remind me of death as I, myself, lay in pain.
I was quite alone when I found myself sitting on a quay, having been discharged an hour earlier. There were fish at my feet. Teeming bodies. They glinted silver when they plucked the surface. But below they lined up together as black hairs: combed straight. When the current turned, so did these fish. Wiggling and aligning and thick and black. Everywhere teeming. I looked at them and at the algae: so much infected muck — aqua- brown sludge, diseased.
Above the waters is a pot plot: and here, too, life teems. The pot plant drowns among tiny unthinking midgets, floating in the air as the fish do below. They all gather together, and move together, and breed: the flies and the fish. Here comes a car. Clinking boats and their moorings. Leaked boating fuel. Belched diesel fumes. The sun is lower. And the clinking moorings grow unsettled, rise in pitch, as the wind stirs them and a baby cries. My head splits open. White sears; steel stabs my face! I stand (careful!), — walk to the restaurant. Feel the tablecloth linen! Run it under your clammy fingers and tell yourself that you’re not dying. That you’re not dead. Drink wine again — do you remember it? — and call all of this life familiar. Hear the chirping birds! See the evening strollers walk by, and pretend that all this is familiar. Convince yourself to be alive! Eat your damn mussels. Drink wine. And hear the chirping birds. So many birds: teeming birds — they are like big flies.
From the hospital ward I could see highways on highways. In the morning, a convoy of identical trucks rolled along an overpass. Every surrounding hill face was covered by a plastering of blockish buildings. White, off-white, pale yellow. Leached air conditioner fluid. Rusty drain pipe. The clatter of an IV walker. Heart beat beeps. Velcro straps: blood pressure cuffs. When did the people become the fish? — the evening strollers now teem and gulp: groupers in a fountain, their mouths open, their phones lifted. When did they become so unbearable? I can barely look. The crucifix had hung above the hospital bed. Dying Jesus: watching over the highways and yellow apartment blocks. “Garish,” you would have pronounced. (Were you not the one who turned the money changers out of the temple?)
The sun is redder, further away. The baby is silent. An electric drill drills a hole. The lamp begins to buzz as the sun drips down: the young waiter assumes his melancholy air. Beans grind. Steam hisses. Air stirs the back of my head. (There is a train.) “Where can I go?” I say; gaze at the spot on the horizon where the sun had been. No cataclysm comes at the curt moment when the last drop disappears. Everything is the same.
There are starlings above me as the light dims: murmurating and turning and turning together. Everywhere life teems insubstantial: each individual is made so small beneath the crush of the moaning ensemble of billions. The drill whirrs. The boat masts turn black: swaying against the dark blue: their tips straining up to the dying sky: they are bacterial flagella, searching: the earth is a bed of coruscating, wriggling bio-rot — blossoming each morning to belch and fart in worship of the returning sun.