2: Tower of Words

by Jane Carnall

So now, I said, and walked through the silence and the sweet-smelling darkness towards my home. My home is a tower with glass walls and a glass ceiling and up and down the walls are shelves for forty thousand books, a lifetime's words, a long lifetime. I step from shelf to shelf, reading as I go: the sunlight beams through the walls and smiles me warm, even when the snow is thick and blinding-white outside, I within am warm among my words.

It is summer now: the tower gleams heat, and I sleep in the shadow of my books until the night falls. I go out then and walk, down the long hill to the coffee-black sea, my feet crunching across the sugary beach, the lumps sticking to the soles of my shoes. I scoop up the warm wavery coffee in my hands and drink: dark caffeine-rich liquid, strong as a storm, sweetened by honey-gold sand.

I walk back up the beach, my footsteps the only sound in all the miles of silence, and then I climb the grassy pathway home, and all is silent, everywhere. Overhead the stars burn silently, for all their brightness, mute explosions tamed by infinity. I swim in the silence, my mouth still black with the taste of sea, I turn and spin on my heels, dancing with darkness, knowing my strength, knowing my balance, knowing my joy.

I eat hot red soup in which a crumpled egg has drowned, breathing out its last yolk into the spice and richness. There is bread for drowning, sopping itself into red rags, burning my mouth with red. I drink clear water. I think of chocolate, of snow, of oranges.

I read: this is what my summer nights are for. I sit cross-legged under one light and I read books borrowed from all the shelves: a golden book of monsters, a black book of children, a blue book of snow, an orange book of love, a brown book of walls. I read: the words flow past me, easy as a spring river, turbulent with rain, the currents wrestling like muscles. I read.

And then I write. I think of apples, of words, of water. The letters each have their sound. Lih in the front of the mouth, tongue tasting the bone beneath the lip, lih moving down to the soft-jagged bed where the tongue lies when it isn't lying, lih modulating to lo, rising like a bird drawn by a child to click against the teeth, vuh, luv, bending in a curtsy to lend grace to the sound with a e, love, love, love. One word. Four letters. A many-splendoured thing: a promise: a dream: orange and darkness silent around the tower.

What, not finished? Further still to go through the night, the endless silent darkness? The words won't travel. All that walks with me is memory, a memory of words. Apples are a memory, words are an ancient memory, water is older than words. Colours in the darkness are silent as the stars, and as meaningless. I can't take the books out of the tower with me. I can't go anywhere except down to the honey beach and drink from the coffee sea.

536 words

7th February 2000

Feedback: e-mail me (or comment me if you have a livejournal).