Everything is made of loneliness | which may be defined as a particular proximity to death | a state of intimate estrangement with one’s surroundings and with other people | a sense that life is sterile, childless | If one is alone, somehow one’s voice doesn’t carry, and other people’s voices, even those of close friends, don’t quite seem to reach you | There is a shortfall, a zone of muteness, at once vague, occluded, peripheral, but acutely cold and clear, motionless, like bright sunshine on a landscape one early morning after heavy snow | Distance permeates each object | the sugar cubes in a café bowl are precisely sugar cubes, but in a calm and unspectacular way, have Samarkand in them, or Atlantis, the Sea of Tranquility | Paradoxically, they contain what they are not — they contain where they are going, what they have been, how, at a point in their past, they were not sugar cubes, and how, at a point in their future, they will cease to be sugar cubes… | Is loneliness lack of love? | Not necessarily, not directly | A lonely person can be deeply loved, and love deeply, but the same odd embargo on intimacy remains enforced | Indeed, a lonely person who is loved may feel even more lonely | even more childless | A mockingly precise relation to space is one hallmark of the lonely | but even more so, a fraught relation with time, a hyper-awareness of moments and months and years passing | an instinct for ephemera | that each thing is lost, even in the event of its approach, the exquisite | instant of its presentation | its brilliance lying, in part at least, in the fact it cannot return | it must go this way | it must change | it must pursue its natural path | into other things | even the dead | mighty as they are | still possess a butterfly delicacy | a flit and ragged lift | they evince | an inability to stabilise their meaning to us | (sometimes we think of them, sometimes we do not) | they are restless | pinned butterflies in cases whose wings | unnervingly | still occasionally move | A lonely person has a very poignant relation to monuments, and to the monumental: in Rome, you can be very lonely

Looking across the city, he felt as if the churches had cracked, the palaces slumped, statues lost arms and heads | As if a whirlpool of fluid stone and tarmac, brick and plaster | were turning slowly | and at the centre, a darkness, calm oblivion, drew the whole city towards it, and downwards | into nothing | His friends might laugh at him | flip a coin | angle a bottle of beer into themselves at jaunty café tables | mount their scooters and snarl away into the bright, warm evening | driving off somewhere into the intimate splendour of their lives | but what had they left behind, in the shape of the person they knew by his name? | His loneliness proved the whirlpool was there | Into his existence, silent and beyond blame or cure, the city stealthily crept and crumbled | moving, invisibly to others, but tangibly to him, with the seething inevitability of fresh lava | a whole planet on the move | heading into the hole in his head | where children lay | sleeping soundly | so sure, the previous evening, that they would never sleep again

 


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

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