written by James Bone
edited by Sianne Fraser
He told me he wished to compose an “intimate epic”. I was, as you can imagine, taken aback; what a dichotomy! He had in mind something so deeply personal, so inexorably tied to his own experiences, he would become so tortured writing it that he’d end up destroying most of it during the very compositional process; a little farewell bonfire in the garden, perhaps. Or, drive up to some high point, the peak of a range far removed from where his hallowed feet had tread, and said adieu out the window. I hadn’t really taken any of this seriously, which I still do not regret to this day; I think me joking about it spurred him on, somewhat. He became obsessed with his own inability to finish it. At the time, I didn’t really see what the fuss was about. Besides, who needs an ending? Conclusions are the refuge of the weak. Everything tied together nicely. Horribly. Nobly.
Whatever direction one takes, it does not sing to me, not like he did. I once remarked that he was the only poet I ever liked; I often wonder now if that was true. Not that I liked other poets, heaven forbid. Ghastly lot – ruin your day. No, I often contemplate whether I liked his poetry based upon its merit or simply because I liked him; he had a lovely, round mouth. His almond eyes penetrated you in a way that made you lovesick in seconds. I never had nor have since thought about a man in the way I thought about him. It was terrifying. I suppose love is the wrong word. Lust is not appropriate either. I did not want to sleep with him. Not initially, anyway. I wanted to feel him; his every glance was intriguing, and when he began scribbling I just had to know what it was! I, a poor medical student, barely ever read anything other than early morning scans of newspaper headlines, desperate to see what poetical furnishings he was concocting! Of course, I’m better read now; I’ve halfheartedly sat through all of the classics. Homer, Ovid, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, Rimbaud, Flaubert, Joyce right through to him. Nothing since him, though. There’s a greater sense of futility to that.
Now, just to be clear, this is not a piece of literary criticism. I would not know how to compose such a thing. Nor is it mere blind adulation – just want to talk about it. It simmers within the cauldron of my mind (excuse the metaphor) and I want to spill it out over the page. Forgive me, I am no writer. I suppose I am boring you; it is increasingly difficult to discern these days. I shall cease with the digressions; the intimate epic. By intimate, I gather by the small fragments that remain, and using my very rudimentary critical abilities, that he meant for the scope of the work to be limited solely to personal experience. Internal pondering. There would be no external action, no A to B. All would be thought, not said or done. This conclusion is also partly based on what he verbalized to me during our periods of semi-romantic co-hibernation, which took place mainly while he was in the midst of creative fervor; however, for your sake as well as mine, I have condensed his conjectures. I often wonder how it would have turned out, had he lasted. Would his work have, as I’ve been told so often occurs, been ignored or derided, only to posthumously be discovered and studied in great detail by great scholars with great minds and noble hearts? Ha! I doubt it would have even been published, then again what do I know? There is something inexplicable, enticing, intoxicating about it, as tiny as it is, but I am sure that aspect of it reveals itself to me and to me alone. You see, nobody else really knew him. I realize that sounds like deluded trite but I assure you; he was quiet. A lot of the girls we studied with were very keen on him, but he was either oblivious or completely uninterested. I was very jealous of their longing gazes, though towards whom that jealousy was directed I can no longer recall.
One thing is for sure; I knew him better than his family did. They were a nice bunch, easy-going, carefree. Not literary. They did not approve of his permanent scowling, nor, unfortunately, despite their easy-going nature, of our liaison. We would touch each other, often without warning, as if temporarily dispelling with the notion of reality and rising onto a higher plane of existence, one in which making the other come so hard was all that mattered. His parents may not have been literary, but they certainly weren’t naive. From then on, when I came to stay, I slept on the couch. His Father never shook my hand again. A shame. I remember one Sunday morning, before all that, after I’d stayed the night, his Mother had made apple pie, and sitting at that table with him being brought a delightful treat by his Mother in her rose petal apron with her bulging tits and rosy cheeks and straw hair in two perfect buns I had never felt so content, so at peace. I recall this sudden, overwhelming sense of belonging, like for the first time in my life I really mattered, and the sweet aroma of apple pie was the proof. He just picked at it, seemingly out of uncharacteristic politeness. I wolfed every last morsel and embraced its creator with such an affectionate warmth I think I made her a little uneasy.
It is night time now. I am sitting outside on the balcony drinking a coffee. I think the nature of this spillage of my thoughts has changed somewhat. I’m not sure if I’m going to share any of his work with you. Sorry; I just don’t know what the repercussions of such an act are. Oh, I’m sure you’ll like it; if you’ve taken the time to read this far, you’ll certainly take to his style, so very obscure that it is. I do pore over the few scraps that survived more often than I care to admit and… I trust you. However, do I trust myself? I considered, after the end, sending it to his parents, in the neatest bundle its positively anti-extant nature would permit, wrapped in pretty paper with a nice card explaining everything. The time did not arrive. A sufficiently pretty package was not found. The words, to actually explain what happened, do not exist. Furthermore, much as I like what came of his descent, would they? Would you? This worries me.
If I show you his intimate epic, a work he considered to be bearing his very soul, despite the fact I only have a few scraps, a few disparate fragments from what before certainly amassed, in the infancy it so tragically never progressed from, thousands of pages, if I share them with you, could I, possibly, as a result of that, lose him?