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July 15, 2024

The Geography of Loss

By Ian C. Smith

The Geography of Loss

Where does sound go? I remember a thunderous rumble at the old bridge, workmen tipping rock midstream to allow their crane's pile-driver purchase, the condemned structure resembling a Drysdale canvas, dusted spectral gaunt-grey in its last days. Following my feet now to this stillness, a contrast to that time here with people loved, I watch a pelican pair silhouetted by the sun. A willow fallen from the bank, durable trunk sprouting stubborn new growth reflected in the depleted river's pebbled pools in this droughty season, reaches as far as that long-gone crane, a concrete bridge presiding now, replacing the weathered bouncing planks, their familiar tattoo beneath our wheels.

I sit on another fallen tree, beloved children's make-believe fish'n'chip shop, closed now. When older, after a flood, they leapt in joie de vivre or bravado from the half-submerged tree, stick figures shrieking into the current. Preoccupied with counting years again, I see ghost swimmers, lithe youth, memory-splash, a kind of paralysis of the here and now. Beyond the willowy fringes on the opposite bank market gardeners work rows of lettuces, a Corot scene.

Floodwaters sweep life's detritus downstream, but not the desolation of the human heart. What would an alternative life have been? Suffering, beauty, the shape of time lost darkening a different long steady failure? Watching the tiny wake of an unseen creature I feel if I look away it shall disappear into this aching silence.

Article © Ian C. Smith. All rights reserved.
Published on 2020-08-03
Image(s) are public domain.
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