I’ve lost my practice. The music that turns limbs to liquid and stills the dancer’s mind has gone silent. The body, I think, is made of stardust, and part of the body is dead like a star born and blown out trillions of years ago, its candleflash (“I am, I am, I am…” “I was, I was, I was….”) still hurtling toward us, as if in hope that our seeing will turn it to living once again.
I smell the ocean. I smell the salt. My skin is damp and the trees are huge and their greenery is endless. The coastline has a stretch and a reach, like a palm frond or god’s finger unfurling by the water’s edge. Cloud. Winter wind. No one. No one.
I live in a cottage. It is made of stone. Five strong men in their middle years built it during the short summer months of 1934. They were too old for the war that came a few years later. But two of them had strong beautiful sons, still growing like cornflower stalks.
One son went to France in 1942. He lived, liked it and stayed. Paris was cheap and the trains, never on time, were a comfort. Once he saw the sunrise over the church in Remoulins. He learned enough French to have a girlfriend or two, and he never married.
Later he became addicted to cocaine and morphine, the tonics he took for the old war wound in his leg. He wrote to his father, an old man now, no longer building cottages by the sea, and described to him in a friendly, rambling manner the way the streets of the Marais smelled in the early morning. Damp stone, dog shit, the occasional drift of musked scent from old women shuffling by.
The other son, he died in 1943, shot in the stomach by a frightened German boy. His friends told the son’s father he died quickly, which was a soft and gentle lie, because he lived for several days until the agony of the infection overtook him. As he died he remembered a childhood trip he took with his father, and his mother who at the time was still alive, up the coast to Astoria. He remembered the grand houses, and the way the river spilled into the sea, just as his life spilled slowly from his young ashen body.
When the father found out he kept building, but after a few years he stopped, and spent most of his time alone, reading under the rain-soaked eves, remembering his young wife and his young son. Finally he took a lover, which was a solace, especially at night when he saw the stars and thought, “The body is made from stardust. So far. So far…”