by Patrick Leonard
Sweepings, dispersed lightly, first from the top stair to the second, hovering at the base of the monument, on the colonnaded perimeter (further again). Sweepings breeze-drawn, crisply upward, and curled again down and inward, the curve of an S; disturbed by walkers around the base in the morning near dawn, clouds of dust and sand, powder of amesite, larch ovules, limbs of conifer, feathers. Wind now irregular, clandestinely patterned. The unpredictable rummage of detail. They have slipped out with the sun and kick up a dredge of night as they circle the monument. What can be known of them is observed moment by moment, new turns along a coil of events that belong to no structure.
The pediment is lit dimly in the morning light. Awakened fully, they now walk from the base of the monument out into the streets assessing what is around them. The weather, for example, the attributable difficulties of movement and being, the unattributable ones.
They are the speakers. He watches them from the window above, their movements annotated in a journal he is not compelled to conjoin with other information. He is, unlike the speakers, awash in problems he is comfortable not having to face. They are searching for something definite in refuse, the discarded, unconditioned levities of their being. The park seen from the window comports rectangularly symptoms of reflection and movement upon the glass above. It expands symmetrically from his window, which is its opposite, and he watches them crossing in and out of it and to and from the monument at its northern perimeter. He plays with the window lever; it swings open and shut like a cupboard, and the refracted light grows and retracts in glyphs over the room.
My wife is sleeping, he writes in the journal.
The diarist, he writes, is alone awake. He crosses this out. He writes, I am awake.
Your wife is asleep, the journal speaks back to him.
The speakers are wandering again in the park.
You are the speaker.
He walks out into the corridor and down the hall past the doors of the other apartments. There is growing sense of movement in building, more now than before when he had walked below to examine the rack of newspapers.
What did you write in your journal, his wife says at dinner. I saw it open on the table.
I wrote down what I had been dreaming about, he says.
They look at each other and then resume eating with their heads down.
I'm picturing us eating a fire-pit-roasted Hawaiian pig, she says.
He looks up and her, and then puts down his fork and looks through the window toward the park. He stands and walks to the bookshelf, and returns with a book open to a single photograph.
I'm picturing us doing this, he says.
She looks and sees a single, monochromatic photograph of a man hang gliding.
I love it, she says. I've always wanted to try that, maybe when I get over my fear of heights.
We would look down on the speakers in the park, he says, I have a theory that they walk in preordained patterns that are invisible to all but their own kind, that they circle one another and gather in what they need all through designs that cannot be detected by any but themselves, just as ants march methodically along scent-marked lines that look to the observer chaotic.
Yes, that would be special, she says.
You have an incredible visual capacity. I don't understand what goes on in your brain. I don't understand how these pictures come to you. It's like you're dreaming much of the time. What did you write in the journal?
Well, he says, setting down his fork again, have I told you the one about the blind banker?
No, I don't think so. Possibly, she says.
What I was writing, he says, was about the recurring dreams I have about the blind banker, who this particular scenario is sitting in his house where he is entertaining a number of esteemed guests. The guests are all varied in size and height and temperament. The Minister of War is present, as is the local mayor, the fire chief, the wife of recently deceased previous fire chief, foreign ambassadors, and some powerful people in the press. The banker takes delight in compiling complex arrangements of personalities and listening as they attempt to balance one another. Their conversations are of course lively, and he enjoys taking a casual part while also letting his guests entertain themselves.
I see, she says.
The astounding thing about the home of the banker, he continues, is its elaborate visual sensitivity. The banker, through various means, both the aid of designers and artists, and through his own instincts, has built a home attuned to the sensitive viewer. The ceilings in most rooms are elaborately painted, in celestial designs corresponding to the stars in the northern hemisphere throughout the seasons. There are precious and strange items set in high places and in the cabinets that cannot be opened. The walls are in delicate eggshell and pastel colours. The architecture of the home guides the eye. It is expansive, but simple to navigate, for everywhere there are subtle reminders, visual references to its layout, which the banker, who lives alone, cannot of course see.
Do you see all this, in the dream, she asks.
Yes, he says. There is a kind of grand atrium with small radiating doorless rooms where servants emerge when people arrive, the walls and ceiling in smooth, white plaster and vaulted to a single oculus at the top ringed with blue. Guests walk from here into the following room, which is largely built to the left, in which there is a fireplace in obsidian, with great curtained windows built so that the room receives direct light through nearly the entire day, light that falls in the streams across a subtle and beautiful arrangement of period furnishings. But beyond this, directly in line with door, is the dining room visible all the way, and the head of the table is directly in line with the front door so that if he is present and seated there, the master of the house is seen immediately as a guest enters, and he can immediately turn his head to the left and see who has arrived. He could, rather, do so were he not blind.
Do you see all of this? And what is your role in it all, she says.
I see it all momentarily, he says. I am present in two ways. They are distinct after the fact, but they flow seamlessly into one another. First I am a guest, an unnamed guest, probably a variation upon myself with some unknown distinction outwardly conferred. Then I become a kind of omniscient figure, I observe from many angles and sides and viewpoints, I am constantly transitioning but I am not conscious of myself. The scene takes hold. I'm the filmmaker behind the camera, and I'm directing everything but for a moment I am not there.
I don't know why I was in the banker's house, he continues. I wasn't sure what the occasion was for the party. It seemed, in some sense, that the banker throws the party, which is primarily a very formal dinner, in order to openly suppress the natural hostility between his guests. He does a little to facilitate their conversation, but then he leaves them alone to do what they will, and seethes with pleasure as they shift in their seats. For the banker, the guests, there is a consonance transparent only to him. They circle in elliptical orbits variable to small but parallaxing degrees, and he is Mercury, and the sun, and the vernal equinox.
I'm picturing us speaking like this always, she says. I'm picturing a resonance that endures in the silence long after.
Among the mountains, over a sheer face of stone, the hang glider descends. Wind from the valley, cloud and sedimentary rock, the sparse chilled air, the soundless movement of the glider who falls in calm alertness toward the fields below and the distant town. The hang glider experiences the sharpness of his own image; seen from below, he imagines, he has become the image of himself, his aesthetic preparation for a single moment made true, retained if not fully captured in the image. The hang glider understands distantly the actualization of the hang glider. He understands the glider becoming and fulfilling the glider. The motionless, the moving and real. Man and photograph.
lives and writes in New York City.