The man who saved his own life
The still-point has moved
no longer is there a hiding place
the home once given has been reclaimed
with each awakening I become more weightless
with every blink of the eye I lose my touch
my thoughts are already being deformed
and out of death the memory hands me
something that cannot be mine:
the eternal that demands my all
and consumes me
I find myself in strange hands
I am a mirror in which nothing reflects
ere I thought that everything reverts to what it was
but what it was is unfindable
since it never was what it was
in the silence there is a silence more profound
one disaster after another
It is done. This is the instant that the immortal one visits me. Uninvited yet expected, like an answer to an unspoken wish. As inevitable as the falling of dusk. And recognized by everyone as something that must be as it is: intense like the rays of the midday sun in the summer, as convincing as a handshake between friends, as engaging as a ‘yes’. The immortals want to be with me.
As the deer, the wild boar and the buzzard belong to the forest, the wolf to the steppes of Eastern Europe and the tadpole to the pond in the little back garden in the city where it tremulously metamorphoses into a frog, as the one sweetheart belongs with the other, so does immortality belong with me. A blink of an eye that I prolong.
I respond to this visit with all the warmth I can muster, and that seems sufficient. I am enraptured with the endlessness and boundlessness that immortality gives me. Immortals also do their morning gymnastics and sing a lot, just like me. True, being immortal is a gift, but immortality is obliging. Therefore I must celebrate it and turn my innermost self inside out. I am paying for it, and you are my witness.
So don’t be shocked when I knock at your door bewildered with joy. When drunk and dragging one leg I seek your room, because of all words your name was the one I did not forget. Don’t be surprised when I tearfully plea for shelter in order to hide this fleeting moment. To no avail, of course. I can harbour no complaint. I have no hidden agenda. What gazes at me from the other side takes me far beyond the death that thrives in me. It is death that gives me life. I am the space in which infinity prevails. I stumble, fall forward and stand up again my gaze is blank, and in the grass there is no impression.
Forgive me all the old words that broke your silence and forgive me all the words to come that will do the same. In the space that their sounds permit me, I ask for forgiveness. Everyone is welcome there, because being immortal just for a moment lasts a whole lifetime, and it is a pleasure which one wants to share.
In the harbour there is a group of young people walking towards a boat. They are humming a song, looking out across the sea and thinking of their mother. They sail out to sea as evening falls. Marked by an undulating present, they shuffle past in their flowery shirts. They disappear. Never to return. The glimmer of the ancient light of the stars in the great heavens does not reach them. The present is too small for the sea. They are commemorated in every lap of the waves.
In a small municipal museum I burnish the dark rosewood of an old cabinet, and while polishing away from the depths of the wood, from under my hands an old drawing slowly emerges. An image appears beneath the gleaming beeswax.
I see a landscape with two figures. To the left of the scene there is a man, leaning relaxedly on a long stick. The man cannot see me. He gazes towards a young mother to the right of the picture, sitting on a small, elevated meadow. She is breast-feeding her child. Like the nature around her, she is naked. She looks for me and finds my gaze. She stares at me. That is what protects her, and this she knows. Being seen means being saved. Being seen means being alive. We are the watchmen of each other’s lives. The people who see each other also love each other. We live on in one another as life. We are part of each other. I look at her. I entrust all my possessions to her and give her the most beautiful clothes. She lives with me for a while and I care for her child.
In order not to lose each other we do not move. Many things can be different, but this cannot be different. The painter understands this. I am his friend. The tale is there for those left behind and is constantly being rewritten.
I am a strange man, because at night I hide myself in the ear of my beloved. I listen surreptitiously to what is inside her. I hear the laughter of the little sprites who jump mischievously from brain cell to brain cell. I hear the whooshing sound of their jumps through the air that mingles with the giggling of young girls and the mumbling of old people in the brain stem. Everything sounds from far away, yet is still clear. Then I hear a babble of voices in a meeting. They scream and bark incomprehensibly one on top of the other. They bellow. I am with them in a room. I am the only one who remains silent. I run from the room without taking my leave and hurry with ever-bigger steps into the dream of my beloved, infinitely far away. I am dressed simply and wear no hat. She makes me go. She forgets me on the way.
I fall and look wide-eyed around me. The wrinkle-free surface does not shrink from my dark gaze. I step outside. The world stands quiet. Everywhere there are people embracing each other, releasing each other and embracing once again, and on the street corners there are people who disagree with each other, shaking their heads, and at every crossroads stand hundreds of cars. The city is getting a fresh lick of paint. The people are getting their taxes back.
It¹s about time for me to be the rain. The rain that falls out of the sky in the cities. The rain that streams through the streets, which children wearing coloured boots splash through and call: It’s raining! They call me and I will obey. I want to merge with their dying words. To awake through the dying. This will be my contribution to life. From now on I will offer up all my deeds to the rain and the coloured boots of playing children. I let gardens run wild and no longer even give it a second thought.
There is a tense calm, a strange and cruel peace, a happiness that makes one forget every thought of happiness. The landscape is being destroyed. Cars drive backwards. Babies fall from their cots. I hear words unknown to me, familiar sounds are strung together and become spectres. They are transmitted according to incalculable acoustic rules and form long sentences. In their sound I hear clashing continents and the noise of falling trees and the cacophony of thousands of calling voices. Something great is changing. What is this? Something, more miraculous than the slow rising of the sap in the tree, more marvellous than the immobility of the actor who plays a statue on a square in the city, more forceful than the urge of an artist who jumps blindly through the canvas of his painting. What is this? I do not have the touch that bewitches me.
I merge with the immutable, with all the unchangeable. I aim my gun at everything that moves in the dark and I shoot. I am the bullet. I am the death in everything. I am the death that is in me. I sneak through the universe and to the question ‘Who are you?’ I reply, screaming, ‘The absent that is what connects us.’
I do not budge; I say nothing and look in silence at the stasis.
I descend slowly down the bones of the thigh of my beloved and lay myself to sleep on the softest inside of the sole of her foot. In her dream I am a man with a stick who is walking, as in so many dreams without a face, seen from behind, with a slow tread. Together we go on. Even the briefest moment has a grandiose history.
We artists listen when all is silent, and we are no strangers to that peering at something for hours, which precedes the staring into the night, the night that is closed to the senses. We know the motionless waiting. We have been practising this for centuries. We listen and have become accustomed to monotony. We know the beasts. We are familiar with the uncertainty of suspicions and the effect of the changing light. We know the blank screen and the small window, the recklessness and the vanity. We broaden our outlook. At all times we see what is absent. We never return to ourselves. For us what is missing is as attractive as a holiday home in the mountains. The absent feels at home with us, since we do not subject it to an inquisition, we show respect and share the same space. We sleep together in the same bed and our dreams are the same. One is as rich as the other.
I look around and get up from my chair. My memories forsake me. My body is deformed. I laugh incessantly. I shrink and move involuntarily. Something is shifting imperceptibly. There is a wall being built and there is a house being demolished. I stretch out my arm. In the sky, two clouds separate from each other, a ray of light breaks through between the clouds and falls on the roof of a small farmhouse, where nobody is living. There is bread on the table. There is nobody left who wants to eat. It is too late. It is late and I am tired. There is fire. There is a hand, which writes, and there is a hand, which kills. Meanwhile I try to remember how things used to be and close my eyes. I advertise a room for rent for free with reliable heating and a big bed. But there is nobody, and nobody comes. In taking leave there is nobody, as after taking leave there is nobody. There is nobody to exchange things with. Why has everyone left?
In the turn of the head do you recognize the stirring of a hesitant urge, which animals were deprived of in ages past, in order that the kiss can nestle? Do you recognize the eternal promise at a glance? I am imprisoned in sweet immutability. The extended stasis me all the time in the world.
Being immortal means being insatiable, beyond measure, wallowing in infinity and infinities. Around the yonder, and around this yonder a further yonder, and in that furthest yonder the closeness of home: cat, lamp, table and hand, cheek, foot, toe, knee and hair dark, curly hair. Being immortal is wonderful!
I set out and head for the eye of a friend in order to dress for a wedding that is about to be held in his mouth. He gets married. I will find the bride in the saliva and she will embrace me. I am expected there. I apply sparkle to the cornea of my eyes and polish my forehead with a cold, white powder. With a knife I make an opening between my tightly sealed lips, to give the impression that I can breathe. I hide the knife in my trouser pocket. Now the words. Where are they? What do they give me and where do they take me? Where do we find each other? How do we recognize each other?
I remember a bronze pan in which there was food. But the pan has disappeared, there is no metallic sound. There are no more women squatting by the fire. Their time is past. The impression of their hands on the bronze has faded and the contours of their faces have been evened out, their arms are too short and their nails broken. The landscape behind them has disappeared as well. It is wartime. The memory dies slowly. Speech finds no more words. A man has been missing since yesterday, then his skull was found at the side of the road. In a city with tall houses a window is being bricked up. A key turns in the lock. I turn around and look left and then right. I walk up the stairs and down again. Nobody. Something invisible falls. It is all over. I swallow the knife and look outside.
Bring him inside. Where is he? Tell him that his wife has been hit and can no longer walk, tell him that his child has lost all his teeth and that his arms are broken, tell him that the child is crying continuously and is no longer eating, make him promise to kill his child. Lock him up in a damp cellar and give him wine to drink until he has to vomit, mock him and pinch him in the nose until he bleeds, kick him into a corner and spit at him. Torture him!
Show him the face of the drowned man who lay on the beach for five days with shells in his eyes and a skinless face. Show him the maggots that are consuming the cheeks. Show him the smirk of the young executioner. Show him the shining weapon he is toying with. Show him the smashed doors that are hanging from their hinges. Take him to a stinking room. Show him the glass of water standing on the table from which nobody has drunk yet. Show him his maimed face in a mirror. Drag him to his feet and show him the window that we look through. Silence him. Blind him. Make him soft. Force a knife into his side and spill his guts.
Life gives death a place. One has to die somewhere. Life honours the dying. If I say I am alive then I¹m saying that I am dying.
I see spots that lose their colour. Lay him on the bed and wash his face, open the window, shut the door and wait until his last expiration has escaped via the window. Once exhaled from the lungs of those groaning, of the living, it will penetrate imperceptibly. It will once again attach to day and night.
I see a small house surrounded by snow. There is a dog running into the distance. Nothing but ourselves, which we lose. There is no enigma that keeps us going. Every illusion is trumped by an even greater illusion. I am addressed by death: Slowly, onwards!