Night vision/Helle Naechte

R Y Sirb

Full moon plus one


It was cool that first night under a clear bright light from the moon.

Ambient sounds were accompanied by audible frictions of cloth on cloth, and the swish of silk stockings caressing each other on plump thighs, as she sasheyed along the catwalk slightly knock kneed, blond hair almost white, drawn tightly back from a plump round face with upwardly squinting small blue eyes. A few of us, not me, wore tattoos and one or two others had numbers tattooed on their arms, Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians and the rest. We were breathing in unison to the flip flop sound of her footwear and the beguiling message of her underwear.

I woke up and went for a walk in the small hours of the night. A bird called out in the distance, bounded by hills, straddled accross the rim of the horizon to the south and the east. The winds from the west bent urgent buzzing sounds around my head. There were symphonic movements beyond shapes, forms following forms. And ears, although one has become a fleshy ornament and functions like a muted trumpet attuned to a shortened spectrum of noise. What I could hear was reduced in inverse ratio to internal sounds, as though cocooned, or contained behind glass. Clouds were running fast accross the panorama of sky, leaving huge vistas of space. Winds from the upper reaches of the atmosphere arrived as light breezes, rustling the trees. There were a few stars whose lights broke through the invisible layers of pollution in the air.

The fields of maize were impenetrable solid, and the ploughed furrows receded into a dense texture of dancing light particles falling into obscurity. There was a cool clear moonlit brilliance when looking up into the sky. I went south, in the direction of the bird's call, going up past the first strip of ploughed land, over the hump, gently downhill to a dip and then up again to a bridge over a road. When I turned round to look back, to see if there was anyone behind me, I saw the Foyer (a structure for living) and huts in the distance, lit in low light. Behind it lay the abrupt termination of habitation, at the limit of the suburban drive into farmland. To go that way, north, would take one through the suburban outer ring in towards the centre of Basel. In daylight, the foothills to the Alps could be seen in the distance to the North East.

Peter cupped his hands and blowing into them drew out long owl like hoots, and was answered by an owl some distance away.

From the first row of huts facing south, diagonally to the left, looking east was a signpost and seat. The track going south dips down slightly then pulling up, by the ploughed furrows on the left beyond which are the forested hills of the Jura, and the maize section on the right, and then goes over the top at the short horizon. On the right hand side the verges are full of rough grass, not high but thick, laying over each other leading to another huge ploughed area sloping downwards towards an orchard and beyond that through some tall trees with large stacks of felled timber to the road. Looking from the track it was lost in the dark at night, occluded by the swirling particles of light, pixel like swirling interminably on a tv screen. Or was this happening in my eyes as the dispersion of light particles passed through the retina and so to the brain? What I am is all that the body is, drawing its senses inwards in the darkness

Dreaming one

She didn't wear her scars with honour, but they weren't hidden.. Every finger ridged lengthwise with scar tissue, the back of her hand like a map of raised tissues, raw red scars in relief. She was slumped in a chair in the foyer waiting for the next appointment which she must have known would change nothing. In truth, what could she hope for, breakfast, a conversation, a walk in the woods, or a visit to a psychotherapist? There would be new obstructions, new mountains to climb which would defy any attempts at recovery. Later in private her assault on herself would begin again. Her hands were livid with the evidence, where to break through the skin, would effect an escape from the tryanny of the complete or closed body. It would shift into a pain of pleasure, pleasure in pain amid the relief that there was no obligation to hold oneself together in an intolerable lack of feeling. It was written on her hands, and in another way by the bloated swellings of her body barely contained in ill fitting clothes. There would be a tremendous relief of coming into feeling by outrageous penetrations, puncturing and ripping the skin, attacking it as an alien object, with no future in mind. The assault on the body for the mind's sake was irresistable, subtly changing its emphases, but returning to the theme of being driven to open up the body regardless in an effort to flee from senslessness into feeling. Was it like that? Someone said the body is a temple. She sat impassively, an immovable pile of flesh, not even waiting, no sign of time passing apart from scratching at some skin at the base of the cuticle of her thumb. Someone gave her a cup of coffee. She smiled. There was a sweetness to her nature. She was large and yet more or less invisible. She didn't draw attention to herself, but drifted towards the shadows the corners, and by so doing attracted my attention.

I know each finger, each scar inscribed on the skin, recalling events which scored the body, a library of signs, of incidental abrasive interactions, collisions with other objects, other lives. I can read them and sink into a reverie of past events and see the body in the landscape, the body as the landscape. I followed similar paths and tracks that night, the concrete paths and drainage holes, the few houses and telephone poles rearing up out of the darkness and falling back into obscurity as I passed, the signposts impositions at surface level, as drawn, and redrawn, ploughed up and raked over, grown on and harvested from, fertilised and replanted. The tracks on her hands were the hacked out imprints of the map of impositions on the land. Her body was reproduced many times in the enormous reach of the plateau of strip fields, hills, and valleys.

Full moon plus two

I was standing in the field just south of the foyer looking into the wood when my eye was caught by Peter on the other side of the the fire wood stack. pull out a large Rhode Island Red from a large brown paper bag. He expertly subdued the bird and raising his arm and swiftly brought down an axe to decapitate it.. The logs partially obscured my view. I moved to get a better view and saw that he was holding the legs of a chicken convulsing rythmically until it lapsed into inertia. He put the carcass into a cauldron of steaming water and plucked it clean. It emerged as a dull putty coloured nude thing, akin to, a naked baby with claws, and rudimentary wings minus a head. My eyes drifted to the wood in dark green shadows, to the fallen down trees blocking the path.

Dreaming Two.

It was a cool morning, clouded over but bright. I walked into the farmland to the south, taking the concrete track south, going over the first hump and then the second made by the bridge over the road and then straight on down into the dip bordered on both sides by trees. The farm house was tucked away up from the pathway on the left.. Nearer the track was another brick building, a large outhouse with a chicken run full of white Leghorns. The day before brown Rhode Island Reds were there. I was waiting for the appearance of beautiful wynedots.

The only sign of life was in the chicken run with rats, and crows scratching at the ground in the field beyond. I came to a wide stretch of flatland divided into strips, of maize, grass, ploughed sections and orchards. The farmland cultivated so as to resemble an enormous carefully laid out garden. At a crossroads I turned right now in a westerly direction walking through rows of dark garden shrubs, bushes and bright red and blue flowers in a Garden Nursery. Two men wandered between rows of decorative conifers. I took the path at a right angle to the left. going south again passing another field of maize on the right, and came to the entrance of waste ground with deposits of earth and stones, overgrown with long grass yellow daisies and bushes wet with dew, and three small pools. I climbed up over a deposit of rocks, pushed through waist high grasses and brambles and went down to the largest pool. There was an instant commotion. The pool was bounded by grass and water plants. As the ripples subsided the perfectly still mirror surface of the water reasserted itself. I looked into the pool through the reeds around its edges to clear deeper water.

“Stop thinking.”....................................................

From where I stood I could see one eye. I saw an eye. It was looking straight at me. A frog had it's eye on me. It was there suddenly as though it had always been there motionless, it's body half in and half out of the water. I think I must have been fully alerted by that, because sitting on a broad green leaf growing up sideways out of the water I saw another two eyes looking at me. A motionless brown and green frog was staring at me, its eyes ringed in gold.

I stayed legs straddled accross two rocks locked into the looking game, motionless, or trying to be. Eventually by casting my eye around the pool, peering between the stalks and leaves of the water plants I counted thirteen frogs. I checked and rechecked looking for more. A few had their backs to me, but most had their unblinking eyes fixed on mine. One by one they appeared although I didn't see any one of them arrive. We stayed there locked into a seemingly motionless timeless world. I knew that I was at the entrance to a scene in which time was played out in a way I sensed, but couldn't imagine. I could destroy it but would never be a part of it. When I finally wrenched myself away, and broke the spell, what had become a complex scene was immediately dissipated. I checked the time.

On the way to another set of cross roads I mused on a connection between frogs and chickens, to do with the plucked naked forms of legs and golden eye rings. On the other side the land was divided into strips. The cows had been moved to another strip of land bordered by an electric fence. And crows were now futher to the south in the expanse of open strip fields.

Early morning under a low fast moving steel grey sky, the rain was coming in again from the west. In the south another set of larger hills in the distance was covered by dark low clouds moving quickly to the east. I went to the foyer, part of which included a circular structure made of scaffolding with a covered roof. The remains of a fire was in the centre, and a figure was lying in front of it under a blanket on an old carpet.. As I came back from washing, the figure rolled over, and then pulling up the blanket turned back curling up in front of the ashes. I walked back to the hut in driving rain. The ground was sodden. There was no sign of animal life in the fields. The track was empty.

Full Moon + three, Cloudy sky

The passage of the moon is so divergent, the antithesis of the sun's regular trajectory.

The air was still, occasionally disrupted by the wind. You have to look for the moon, it appears from nowhere, sometimes directly overhead or from the corner of an eye. That night there was an intimation of something in the fields somewhere behind and to the left. It might have been the presence of death itself, which ( so it is said ) is too quick to be caught by a sudden backward glance. I did smell it near the bridge. Something had died there.

Climbing the hill from the town up through the trees the absence of light enclosed the space around us. The owl flew towards the sounds Peter made, blowing into his cupped hands, and having answered till then with the mythical ''too whit too whoo', now emitted a series of harsh screechings in a tree way up above our heads. It was claustrophobic and conspired with the owl's raucus cries.

Peter stopped. The owl persisted. There was an intimation of sexuality about the exchange, harsh, and unhuman. Peter went on up the road. I followed at a distance.

I was alone on the path, body tilted slightly forwards, striding towards the woods. The fields laying on the plateau, rolled over to the south and west. The land was much flatter than I remembered. in the day time. The space between the ground and the clouded sky was curved, like the lid of a saucepan . There was a semblance of overall greyness, in an otherwise colourless scene. Underneath the cloudy lid lower clouds were moving faster in fluffy groups.

I anticipated the distances in relation to the Foyer, returning for shelter, food, and company. I went so far and then stopped, fearing I might lose track of the route back. Whether this was fueled by uncertainty about my ability to walk long distances or an intimation of insecurity, I can't say. I felt my way gingerly down through the trees in the dark for fear of falling and injuring myself, and came to the outskirts of a small town, the lights of which had appeared through the trees below me.

In a scene from late childhood detached houses lay in their own large grounds stretching away from the village and could only be glimpsed through the dense spreads of hedge foliage and over high sand stone walls. They invited speculation about privacy, wealth and privilege and the ordering of social life at that time and place. The cultural divisions were knife sharp, class divisions echoing all around. On one warm summer evening I came accross a tractor pulling a cart with an open coffin in pale grey along a deeply rutted track leading to the village. I followed until it came to the village on its way to the cemetry. I went to the cemetery the next evening but was not allowed in as a body was being exhumed.

The town appeared to be divided by a large motorway like road containing tramlines like train tracks as well as motor vehicle lanes, bicycle tracks and footpaths. I didn't cross, but walked south along the footpath with the intention to appear to have a reason for being there. I turned right into a street which passed back through the garden like suburbia before reaching the edge of the trees again. It shone and glittered under the sodium lamps perfectly unified as I had imagined. I saw myself as a stranger, an intruder, congenitally out of place, having come out of the woods with no sense of belonging feeling envious and disdainful. That was how I felt. As I returned to the wood (mythical forest) my confidence returned, bolstered by a specious affinity with the natural order. I wasn't part of that either. Looking back down over that part of the town lit up in pools of orange sodium light, the sense of comfort and security it displayed was echoed by the bittersweet embrace of darkness under the trees.

I climbed back up through the trees and skirted the field sensing the temperature, wind, drift of the land, the direction of the track. Then in the dark under the trees I was disquieted about what might be in earshot and beyond eyesight, fearful of being surprised, of being set upon. I passed two enormous holes like vast bomb craters in amongst the trees where there was little or no undergrowth.

The sound of the wind formed shapes and forms around my ears again as I went towards the T junction and turned right passing a ploughed field, rolling down to the edge of the forest,

and then turning left followed a track descending steeply to pass between two houses and into the forest where the track had shrunk into a narrow path crossed a small stream and then wound it's way upwards intercut by the roots of trees. I could barely see and was obliged to watch every footstep I took...........

Full moon plus four.


Night swimming.


Dreaming three.


Peter left the hut an hour after dark wearing his old clothes, a pair of pale green jeans, chinese plimsoles and a faded stained shirt, walked south past the crossroad signs and seat, going down the incline then rising up to the horizon in the near distance some fifty or sixty metres away. For the past few days I had seen him wandering in the fields south of the foyer. I thought he was walking for pleasure or excercise as others were doing walking their dogs.

The temperature had dropped after the sun went down. The clouds obscured the moon and it was dark out there. My hands were cold to the touch. I could see into pixilated space for only a few metres. I went to the edge of the track by the ploughed strip and stood on the grass verge. I hadn't intended to follow him. But our paths had converged. He was standing further in by the edge of the ploughed strip only wearing a shirt. He was just visible in the darkness. He stood there for some moments and then suddenly dived onto the ploughed strip. He began to make swimming movements and crawl slowly along the furrows towards the maize at the top. It was a slow rythmic passage. The rugged texture of the overturned earth was as raw as the scars on her hands. I could just make him out in the distance where he had merged into the furrows and I could just see where he was by his actions. Then having crawled for two thirds of the length of the furrows he stopped and lay there for what seemed an age. It must have been quite exhausting. I more or less lost sight of him. And then he got up and walked back to where he had left his clothes, dressed and disappeared into the darkness.

I heard a woman's voice speaking as though reading under the light from the seat. Beyond that in the field near the huts a fierce fire was burning. I turned and went on up over the rise down and up again to the bridge down past the farmhouse and on into the open stretch of strip fields.