The inability of guilt

A book of luminous things focused the evening upon a stray moment long ago, in another country, another time she had sought to push aside. She had been young then, a desperate believer in herself, desperately ashamed, a walker among ruins and broken beams. One evening amid the tumult of the crowds, on her way to the temple, she had run into a dark man who had spoken to her of liking, perhaps of love. She didn’t hear him. She heard only the roar of the street and saw the far distance of this man with the clipped ear from her solitary aim. She forgot to be kind, to pity this one who of necessity shall be bereft, brushed him aside, and brushed aside his dedicated writing. He was one of those many, philistine by default. She must be ruthless in her pursuit of far lands. Her dreams and nightmares could not include passing kindness to or for such a one, surely.

Much, much later, he sent her his creations, hand-written in careful, flowing cursive script on cheap paper, wrapped in the brown paper of his penury. Once again, she saw only the long perspective. Later again, he wrote and asked her for his only copy of work, for he needed it to secure his future. She searched in her house of many memories and, not finding it, sorrowed briefly for his fate before turning the leaf. She had grown up into the world, and this was the world where many such fell. Artists, too. When it came time for her to move into her father’s new house, she found that poor packet, still wrapped in brown paper. Because she had lost much between then and now, she sorrowed briefly again, for lost things, and lost chances for human kindnesses. Then she threw it away.

Years later, a book that spoke of the duty of the poet to the provinces of art and reality brought her back to that man who had spoken to her of unknown poets so long ago on mundane streets, that dark man with the cut ear and the mark of fate upon him. Being fraught with unborn fate, she knew the falling of words on unheeding ears. So, she thought of him, but no amount of wondering would reveal blessed endings in the forked past. The chance for kindness had come and gone in a moment she had not known how to grace. At the apex of all things unspoken remained the futile fruit of human inability–human guilt.

Penult

Time, the crucial ingredient.
She feared the precipitation of time. Feared the moments of birth, not the final but the processual moments. And because she feared the portentous moments, too, before the processual ones, she rushed to the end of the processes, either to the moments after, feeling that the shattered remains would be easier to cope with than watching the shattering; or, she held herself back, as if from the edge of the precipice, shivering before the moment. She lived between closure and conception, a tensile vibrating thread, not unbearably but torturously.