A Thousand Words

Once, long a go, before my laptop died – a teacher told us never to write to a blank page. She wasn’t a writer, because if she had been, a blank page would have been the most, if not only, inviting thing in the world. Shewasn’t mad, she wasn’t sick with words… she would not cut off her ear like Van Gogh at the very thought of what she had put or hadn’t put on the page.

She gave us pictures to look at – pictures that had a thousand words in them, ones that we had to look for, ones we couldn’t find no matter how hard we tried. We looked at black and white ones, we looked at coloured ones, we even looked at sepia tones – there we no real words in those pictures, because there were no words to tear from our guts about them. We feigned writing, we wrote to pass, we wrote to lie… we bore the brunt of that clinical exercise.

Sometime later at night – when we were at our most tortured, high, wide awake, half a sleep, completely lost – inbetween life and suicide… we looked into our souls. The words in our souls carried light like a William Turner painting and we longed to be in that light. Or a moment in a Tim Burton movie. Or something along the lines of that. We listened to the music in Requiem for A Dream. We made stories out of paper and we cried at the yolks we saw in those fifty crystal glasses. Our art was life and our lives were art, we breathed ourselves day in and day out.

We wrote sentences from single words we just liked – etchings of ourselves, imprinted into a digital matrix, grey on glass, white on the eyes. Thoughts, whims and ideas took us where we needed to go, late night mud fights and communal showers made us smile. Sometimes we even ran down those corridors and sat huddled in them for sometime believing in something bigger than rat races and nine to five. Believing in love stories, happy endings, travelling to the moon – pushing each other’s madness out, embellishing in it, falling in love with it and filling ourselves up with snow.

Somehow we move on and even though those dreams get left behind, they stay with us too, if only the doubt of them or the regret, they stay with us, inside out. Sometimes when we’re eating a sandwich we’ll smile that empty sort of smile which means you’re trying too hard, you’re trying to damn hard to make it all picture perfect. You’re looking for one thousand amazing words, but you barely even have a hundred. It’s tearing you to pieces and driving you mad but you need to stop looking for those words in the picture you have. It’s composition, the narrative, the very essence of it is still where you looked that night, all those years ago – at the bottom of your soul, something that you stopped believing in long ago, along with things like organised religion, good governance and the idea that society knows what its doing.

We’re not sad, not really… we’re all very successful one way or another, we’re married, or we have really good jobs, or the flat in the city and we’ve just been to this country or that… we’ve just gotten out of this relationship or that… life is good and then we reminisce.

When you go home, you think about your soul and you think about that exercise all those years ago, the one that you wrote… if you’re lucky you might even still have it. You look back at the piece of paper and look at what you used to see in those pictures and you think about that now and realise how much things really have changed. You don’t see things how you used to – life has changed everything, even what you once found in those sepia tones. There was something wonderful about that afternoon, you realise it all those years later… about those pictures that the teacher was handing out, about that blank page, about those words she said, about the looks we all exchanged with each other. What happened to those pens we had? Did the ink run out… did we lose them… were they even ours or had we borrowed them from somewhere else for those years under Mile End bridge?

How I wish I could do that exercise again, be in that room, with all those people… with those pictures. I wish I could see those pictures again. They’re lost of course, those words and my laptop died. How I wish I could write to a blank page like we used to. And not with these words… but those words. I wonder what those thousand words would be, how those sentences would look, the loops of all the letters and how I would feel extracting them from myself.

We didn’t know anything then and the possibility was what we took for granted, that the world was not just limited to being our oyster, but that we could have cooked them with a beautiful sauce and that it was all ours for taking. What we don’t see is it still is, that there are pearls upon pearls of wisdom left yet to be devoured.

That blank page – that open empty canvas, for my words, for my material… for a while I remember the picture I had. It was a young boy, in black in white, running through a parking lot… skipping out of town, breaking someone’s heart some day as he left the girl that would one day love him on a train platform.  They are both gone now, like that picture, like that thought and and oh how we long for a clean slate and to be able to write about pictures on a blank page someday soon again.

You find your poetry again in the mundane that becomes your madness.


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