Thursday, 22 January 2009

Music therapy: Song for Jesse

The following is my attempt to honour and perhaps free myself from an image that has sat with me for the past several months. It is a a serene, comforting scene for me, although it may not be for some. It came to me while listening to Song for Jesse by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, from the wonderful soundtrack for The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford. Song for Jesse is a flowering frailty that lasts 2 minutes and 36 seconds. I have played it over and over for two hours. What I have written still doesn't feel entirely right. Sometimes these things take years and repeated attempts before I experience a sense of gentle liberation. Then it is like a tiny knot of energy that I have picked open with words and set free. Today, that has not happened. Perhaps another time.

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Mid winter. That hushed, vacant feeling. Despite the cold there is no snow. The lake is a frozen scrying mirror, reading the clear sky.

There is a man under the ice. He is drifting, pushed by a rivulet of water that trickles into the lake at the north end, two miles away. It is like God leaning off a cloud and blowing on a dandelion.

The man is face up, his eyes open but unfocused, his vision drawn into some mysterious void where a never-ending magic trick siphons his eternal rapture. His features have lost some of the distortion of shock, his greying skin bloating his face into a soft, almost humorous look of assent.

His limbs are stiff and straight, like an action figure doll that has been pushed over, but which remains taut with mute attention. His quilted flannel shirt tells you he is local, maybe a logger, or maybe a guy from the sawmill out ice fishing for an afternoon. His boots have fallen off, revealing grey wool socks with red over the toes, something manufactures do to help workmen pretend their feet are warmer than they actually are.


The place where he fell in two days ago has already iced over. The crystals formed like a scab to quiet the slurp of water against the edges of the hole, which was less than a metre from his head when the last, blinding hiccup finally took him.

For now there is no one else here. You are miles from anything. There is not even a crow’s call to curdle the silence. There is time yet. Stay with him awhile, until you are altered enough by the intimacy of the moment. Touch your finger to the ice, feel the flesh begin to numb as you trace the contours of his cheek, his jaw, his right ear, the way a mother leans her palm against the glass towards her imprisoned son on the other side. Inches away. God on a cloud.

The man is slowly drifting. You assume he is the prisoner. He no longer assumes.

6 comments:

B.G. said...

I know this day. I spent many a lonely day staring into the ice on our lake, staring at the horizon, searching for a dead body or a glimmer of blue...either would do.
i also dream about these days. days of grey, days of discovery.

Dale said...

Oh. Gorgeous writing!

nervous bear said...

Beautifully evocative, helped by the way the flow of the sentences matches the flow of the water in the lake. I especially like the sentence about the crow.

Curious Curandera said...

great post!

Jacqui said...

A vividly haunting and yet peaceful image that will remain in my mind - thank you.

C.S. Perry said...

Well...this will stay with me for a while.