11: Stare into the universe

by Jane Carnall

Here I sit, and stare into the universe, seeing all things in the unreflecting surface of a blank wall. I like to have a window by my side, through which I can see the material manifestations of the universe near at hand, and sometimes sunlight, too, which is neither near at hand nor far away: it is. Light is one of the true powers of the universe: darkness is the true self of the universe.

But I meant to write about writing, and not the universe. Yet writing the sentence that closes the paragraph above returns me, however briefly, to a tent in a field near Brighton, the year I was twenty, the year Frances and I went to the biggest convention I had ever seen: I for two days, Frances for two and a half. During one of those nights I remember explaining light and darkness and the universe to her, but she was probably asleep, and if she wasn?t, would she remember?

I remember. It is one of my strange faculties, to remember so clearly for so long. It is one of the faculties that has never struck me as being strange: it only occurs to me when it fails me, or when I am disbelieved, or when I say something that other people think is strange. All children believe the way they live is normal, until they grow up. And I talked to people so little about what I could do that I mostly believed that everyone could do it, until I spoke too much, too soon, and realised that they couldn?t, and I was weird.

Queer: one of the words that cost me something to write, and in the spending, I gained. A small triumph: to write the word that will do, and no other, though the word that will do shocks me to write it. Fuck is another word, and cunt yet another. There are other words that have and will break my shell open again, and force me upwards through the stone into the sunlight, weak and merciless as the force of spring.

Words have power. To use them correctly is to feel the power: the power of putting words in the right order, casting a spell that makes things be as you know they are. That is the power behind words: one must learn to know what you know, to know that you cannot argue with your own sense of taste. That too is one of the true powers of the universe.

No wonder I have to write facing a wall. One must not be distracted by the universe near at hand. This is a rose: the words that made a dragon know his master. But I have no rose to hand, and nor - perhaps - did the master of the black dragon. She saw the rose in the universe: the rose that now grows from my keyboard, strong green spiky stem, deep velvety scented petals, growing with luxurious confidence in its own beauty, aware that being beautiful is its reason and its justification in the universe. I bury my nose in the centre of the rose, cool even on the warmest day, and breathe in the air of the rose.

539 words

16th February 2000

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