Sunday, 2 December 2012
Looking back: Petrified
There was a gorgeous whole moon last week. I drove onto the Mancunian Way where the road is elevated and there, huge and beautifully orange, was the dusk moon, framed by Manchester high rises.
It reminded me La Ville Petrifiée by Max Ernst.
I love this painting and stood in front of it for ages and ages when it was hanging in Manchester Art Gallery.
I'm going to post the poem it inspired me to write, just because I can. It's interesting looking back at past writing... I can see a real departure in my writing from these more dark/depressing poems. I feel inclined to write another response because I know my feelings about the painting and the city have shifted almost beyond recognition.
When you say, lay down on this concrete block and look- really look - at the blocks of flats down there below this hill, all I can see is moon.
I know what you want me to see - the pattern of high-rise/low-rise, windows lit /unlit that shifts every time one person goes into their kitchen and switches the light on. You want me to know that this life is always changing. This city that we live in, with its cranes and building sites, its dispersal schemes, renovations, conversions, it will never be the same as how we see it in this second.
I try to focus on the buildings and find myself imagining a woman living alone, not knowing her neighbour even though the wall dividing them is brick-width. Her bed and his bed corner the same space. They never speak, a nod perhaps or a smile, but she doesn’t know his name, and when he passes out drunk one night and chokes on his own vomit, she doesn’t call an ambulance. She hears noises but doesn’t feel she can go next door to knock, or shout through the letterbox.
So, when I lie on this concrete block and stare down at our city - all its dustbins and graffiti, neighbours stealing from neighbours and nobody sharing the price of a meal - all I can see is a moon above all this, full moon in a dark sky, a polluted glow making this moon a peach. And I wish it was all I could see: moon over fields or flattened land or a different kind of place, not the emptiness of a city - because that’s how I see it - the loneliness of being surrounded by strangers who might let me choke on my own vomit and later say, it sounded like someone was dying but I never thought to find out.
A train rattles on the tracks below us. We lie on this concrete block and talk about how we are city and moon, how different city and moon are, how a city moon is different from any other.
You hold my hand as though this concrete block might subside and bury us both, before we get the chance to find out whether strangers will start listening to each other.