Friday, 6 November 2009
My father is back in hospital after difficulties breathing. Hospital is about 120 miles from here and our car isn't working because the starter motor seems to have packed up but we can always hire a car tomorrow if it comes to that. I did speak to him on the phone while he was still in A & E a couple of hours ago and he sounded quite good, but this is the third dash to hospital in a month.
There is little sense of reality to any of this at one level - the mundane or daily level - and yet it is a reality we are, I think, familiar with at the level of the imagination. It is hard wired into us but so deep we are hardly aware of it except as a faint haunting sensation. Michael Hofmann once wrote a poem in which he said, 'We are fascinated by our own anaesthesia'. Well of course we are, just as we are fascinated by our own adrenalin. It is our fate to be fascinated by our own being, and by being I mean everything: our bodies, our moods, our consciousness, our presence among others. The out-of-body experience is perfectly normal in one sense.
In other words, this critical condition of my father is a strange, almost unwelcome, poetic experience. How terrible it should be so, I myself half think. I am peculiarly alive in one way and almost in a state of somnambulism in another. Meaning? I don't know what any of this means. I don't even understand the concept of meaning. All I know is that words keep putting themselves into a series of obsessive orders, the kind of order I am very familiar with when I write. Breath seeps into language. So I do write, in concentrated flickers. Or translate. And then I snap out of it and consider practicalities. But the practicalities are imponderable. There are hours and then more hours. Maybe weeks. Maybe months. Perhaps even a year. Or two years. Maybe just minutes.
It was the same when C was seriously ill thirty one years ago, Anxiety? Yes. Hope, yes indeed. Desperate hope. But also this odd alien medium, life, that overwhelms, is staggering and miraculous, and through which we move trailing clouds of anaesthesia much as Wordsworth's child trailed clouds of glory.