Poor eyesight reduced everything beyond about ten paces to a blur. The limit of those ten paces thus formed a kind of horizon for her, producing an intimate, personal domain from the larger bag of the world belonging to the clear-sighted. When not wearing her contacts, she existed at the centre of a globe of haze, smudge and ghosts. At ten paces, people’s faces began to drop their masks of definition, to lose individuality; at twenty paces, their bodies, too, shed specificities, so that personality, age and even gender became embroiled in the general debate over shadow and fuzz. At first exasperated, and troubled by not having her lenses in, as the years passed, she gradually came to understand her situation not as one of deficiency but difference, and not of loss but of alteration. Was her experience of life any less rich than that of people who could see to the end of a railway carriage? In truth, she became a little more callous: as her condition worsened, so more and more people surrendered their identity, their place in her optical theatre. Her perception’s stage grew smaller and more bare. The showman in each human being was excluded by her inability to focus on all but the most private, chamber performances. Attraction and repulsion became less feasible for her: when most people belong to a crowd of faded and anonymous extras, melting towards the impersonal status of objects, the opportunity to flirt, or to be disgusted, lessened. Indifference set into her like a spell of fine weather. She found she no longer cared, and the current of her libido waned. Somehow, people’s conversation began to blur just as their appearance did. There was no detailing on their clothes, no nuance of cut or stitch; it was all a general conclusion, a mélange of opinion and cliché, a kind of intellectual bric-a-brac. Who knew where the silver in the bracelet migrated? What did her hands have to do with Mozambique? And quasars and quarks and gorgonzola cheese? Curiously, she started to pay less attention to her own appearance, as if it was other people who couldn’t see properly, as if she, too, were slipping away into the realm of the ill-defined, a place of tame and routine spectres. Sitting on the tube, her world was a pearl of inattention, nearly everything expelled from the centre to form a glowing periphery. Bowed over the book in her lap, she read intently. Her taste was for histories, and for epic fiction.

Across the world, no accord can be accomplished: the difference of lives is too great. He read in his book: Politics has become shopping. There were fissures in his hands, a sense of bourgeois loneliness, a solitude composed of privacy and specialisation. Elsewhere, people were engaged in terrible struggles, lives were being lost. What is the weight, though, of a meaningless life? A life that has no one to collect it at the end? To meet it, grade it, place it in the suitable receptacle? There was no room anymore for cemeteries, developers needed the land. The living pressed in on the dead like hungry crowds. He read in another book about the fate of certain species of orchids, plants which had grown over-reliant on the services of particular insects in the pollination process. As the ecosystem shifted, the bees died or moved north, and the forest changed: the orchids were left, high and dry, hanging out the wares of their lovely flowers one year, but no one was buying. His melancholy deepened as the patterns reinforced themselves. His brain was a map for depressions and anxiety: they knew where to come. He loved the strange angles things had, sometimes. When he glanced at the beautiful woman opposite, he thought of the grey and white cat on the garden shed, arching up, sniffing at cherry petals.


from Semapolis | City of Signs
(series of poems, unfinished, 2012–present)