Time on Water by Robert Gibbons
When one returns from the voyage
one longs for the wines of Samos. - Cavafy
I disembarked at Boston Harbor today, the sun so brilliant, & a new lower angle across the water, essentially ALL LIGHT, made me think of the Aegean, & what it would be like to be there for a long time with nothing to do but write. So I diverged around, lollygaged really, around the waterfront just soaking in the goodness, & struggling to make that goodness there, in the present space, in spite of what we take for granted in America, or having to be in this culture, Wall Street, the Rat Race, but fearing, too, that if I had nothing to do but write, I very well may not be able to, on an anonymous road, in a small town, in Greece, say, on Samos, for example. Then, on a bench, a woman in black, sat with a ten-x-five-inch writing pad open on her lap. Pencil in hand. Tanned. Wizened. Hair kept in a black net. On the page I could make out a scrawl, on all the worn pages sort of stacked up, but over the scrawl on each line, each line divided down the middle set up by the writing pad, every line & words underneath covered over by exquisite cross-outs, arcs of graphite shining on the greenish paper against the gold sun. I was stunned. She had all the time in the world to write, this street person getting on fifty years old, everything she'd written written over with the slashing, contradicting sharpness, or dullness, of her pencil. It had the look of an abacus, a word from the Hebrew for a drawing board covered with dust, from abhaq, dust. What was she accounting for, tolling, mourning the death of language? After the briefest eye contact, a minor smile, I moved on, only to turn back to watch her look down at the pad, not writing, yet, but with her other hand taking a drag from her cigarette. I walked away with my imagined Aegean shimmering in the distance, in desire, & trepidation.
(This experience took place on the morning of September 11th, at around 7:45 A.M., as she & I looked out on Boston Harbor, Logan Airport in the distance. A draft was completed just as a colleague reported news of the first plane's crash.)
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