Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Penelope Letters


Ulysses,

just to let you know, I have devised a plan. It's a child of necessity, but I know how tales get twisted out of recognition on the high winds and I wouldn't want you to hear of this one backwards. The cat is on the roof and won't come down. That is to say, I am weaving a shroud for Laertes. But grieve not, though you have been away for so long (nearly twenty years Ulysses – you should be coming into your prime, but you have squandered my prettiest years) he's not dead yet, though he will not come and see me. He tends all the trees of his kingdom and grows old Ulysses. Time does not wait for any of us. Anyway I am weaving him a funeral cloth. Each day I sit and play the loom as though it were a lyre. Each night, Ulysses, I unravel the threads of this sad garment as though I could turn back time. I have stalled the suitors for the time being, saying that as soon as the cloth is finished I shall take one of them as husband. (It will be the one I spoke of.  I could bear no other unless you come back to me soon).

The story of this shroud would take several tellings. I laugh to myself.

I wonder whether you dream of home, or whether early on you decided that you no longer had a proper language for it. Will you recognise the coastline when you arrive?, what will you make of this falling land, clipped by salt, and atop the cliff? your kingdom with its dusty squares and its forlorn flagpole, ever ready to salute a new regime.

The maids are all busy making love to the suitors. Our marble halls are silted with sand and dry leaves. Today the sky is in a shawl of grey salt, and the house is grown dingy for lack of love. Telemachus scuffs his feet and demands a great feast. I shall have to talk to cook.

Are you wandering through the arcades of amnesia? Do you suffer the weight that throbs off the unfamiliar angles and the acoustics of the sea? Bear with me Ulysses I am trying to imagine what it is like for you. My name is faithfulness (and how I wish it weren't to be so bitterly tested). I can only get through this by virtue of the most stupendous act of imagination. I conjure you up in your little boat. Beneath the clouds and the stone, there is one green bottle balanced on the wall. Nothing stirs to confirm or deny my assertion that you are on your way. It conjures nostalgia, the ghost of hope.

Well this cloth is a textile of longing. It would warm the body of the dead, but I hope it will not have to. My dearest wish is that you will return to make a nonsense of it all.

Until then,
my love

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2 comments:

Morven said...

With any luck by the time he returns his prime will be over and she will embracing her renewal as a woman.

Claire said...

Amen to that x