Terry Spohn

Conversation with Beckett -- Our Toy Soldiers

Conversation with Beckett

I had no sooner been swallowed than I met Beckett, the great poet, in the foul-smelling blackness.

"I don't want to talk about modern art," Beckett's voice said just after I landed with a splash. "From what I can tell, far too many people are going out to check their mail far too often." Then we sat, blind, swallowed up once again, this time by silence and darkness.

Then, as I felt the tickle and sizzle of digestive acids, the famous man laughed suddenly. "How did you get here?" he asked. Again I saw the lawn, the fire in each blade of grass, the murmur of the worms just below my left shoe, foot still in it, beside my house key and my hat.

"I was expecting a letter," I said, I could still see the dew sparkling like tiny spoons in the grass.

"Listen here. I was in Frankfurt once," he said. "The narrow trains, the dark, oily river..." I could hear air coursing through his nose. The light augered down into the church, right down into the deep smell of the oak. "We went to a shop and I said 'ma, when I grow up I want to see light from the inside.' 'Put that back,' ma said. I had picked up a small wooden lorry. Its wheels were held on by tiny metal discs in which I could see my own face. She swatted me across the back of my head. 'Put it back,' she said."

Toy soldiers

"Hold this," Ella said, handing me her rose. I had only just given it to her, studded with thorns, its blossom the color of Grandfather's lung. She turned to face the street again, on tiptoes to see the parade. Darwin was passing in a boat made of chicken wire and ten thousand crumpled tissues, the wind tossing his whiskers while he clutched at his papers. Then Custer atop a schematic drawing of a horse, and Rimbaud's guardian angel, out of work for years, waving from the back seat of a Caprice, followed by a phalanx of heavy-set widows dressed in black, their glum shoes dropping time like a hundred clocks.

I sucked at the puncture on my finger while childhood slid by on a flatbed trailer, sleeping like a dog in August: my face in a hundred mirrors, the eyes I tried to climb in through. All the toy soldiers hidden under appliances, holding on with grim indifference to the secret lives they lost and were reborn to a thousand times. How much like them I'd turned out: each conjured from wishes, each face pressed against the intricate folds of an unwilling separation. They were the fireflies of hope, the promise of the unknown and wondrous, crude practice at fate and accident. I had forgotten them one by one the way altar boys extinguish candles, just a thin plume of memory rising as a reminder that those tongues of flame were brother to the fire that peeled away Hiroshima.

Previous Page

To TOCE-Mail the AuthorSerendipity Link