John Saul



Given I’ve been allowed this very special very personal access I can say that on my travels over you on top of and under and around you I have moved more or less continuously without following the least compass direction or straight line rather I’ve been on barely plottable curves natural curves on momentary visits sometimes visits with long stays as well as making repeat excursions and on my travels my fingertips and I have come across much that is beautiful no and again no don’t ask me to name parts or places it isn’t like that I don’t want to talk of falling hair or the shape of knees let alone of love no not here even if through the hair sunlight flickers or a knee looks suddenly perfect the essential thing is us lying occasionally awkwardly on the two single mattresses the hotel has awkwardly almost joined together probably to keep down costs it could have invested in a proper double but here we are lying with the door to the balcony open a fraction letting in a little air a little light as we turn and lean this way and that and flip back once or twice in the heat here south of the bay of biscay north of gibraltar and greatly across the country from barcelona although the geography is entirely incidental we could be almost anywhere and on similar travels which incidentally seem to shut out the larger world despite which we may still have moments aware of the great mass of earth beneath us and above us the sky here in a room deep in white with us charged with delight now and afterwards when we will be more separate be ourselves be still close on our sides or backs or even fronts and describing a proud togetherness using words I can’t predict but they will be few in number a number barely reaching double figures since I can’t imagine either of us entering some ramble in the style of old french films where the camera stays steady and the crew go off for lunch and come back to find the stars still up in bed talking at a level many a recording technology would be hard pressed to pick up and as for the words so softly murmured I expect the gist going in the direction of it having been light and lovely and singing this bright autumn day in 2025.


Even in this heat in what the calendar claims is autumn in this heat thick with watery vapour this heat never matched in any previous autumn I can recall not offhand anyway this heat we can’t get used to this swelter enswathing the driest city for a thousand miles which is saying something considering that even by plane and with the odd flight still possible nowadays it would be quite a way to the next supposedly historically dry city

I’ll take this off.

in this heat I say speaking from the heart I want you want you I have a speaking heart it is part of all the thinking and speaking in which the heart plays a major part and speaking is the tip of the iceberg of thinking and the heat turns speaking into yapping which eventually melts away to nothing


if this is my heart speaking that is your touch speaking well heart and touch already go linking and bonding so intensely that neither of us will get up for anything be it a scream a spray of machine-gun fire at the door you too have embarked on your own tracery on the brushery of your fifth sense moving sideways and back around past the soft downy and back down over the rough and spiky the occasionally bony you won’t be attempting straight lines either although there’s no ruling out some surging sooner or later as in a sudden move directly from a to b but excuse me while I try to take in how shockingly white the room is it’s white walled white ceilinged white doored white shuttered cupboarded white sheeted white basined not a picture frame in sight just the one mirror out of view to the right of us while here is just whiteness inspiring awe they say instilling terror they also say so which is it if I hadn’t set out on these travels I could go over to the white kettle and seek an answer in the cups and saucers

My stomach.

oh the heat the white a shoulder-blade the clavicle the lips taking on immeasurable shapes next come the tendons needed by the ankle next some fibonacci hair here in the whiteness the original paint pots must have weighed a bit thank god this old place has a lift the decorators must have said in spanish or even galician or basque probably not catalan before the lids were prised off and the contents released dazzling the decorators in their sunshades brushing onwards striving to fulfil their contract while trying hard not to paint with their eyes shut

Maybe it was the empanada.

putting this history of the décor to one side we are better here than out in the street or the woods where the wind is or in the city centre where the queues for lottery tickets stretch up the hill away from the house tenanted permanently by the ghost of Goya and people are spilling off the pavements in hopes of a jackpot we are better here striving for our own winning numbers here in the white here iris to iris and well on our way

Water helps.

with lips and fingertips and pads of thumbs I have the backs of hands the insides of forearms I have soles of the feet

I’ll turn this pillow round.

holding turning cradling I could say it is a matter of the physical lullaby there is some tightrope walking in there too in the rocking the rock-and-roll the murmurs the sounds oh you know what I mean

Mine had fish.

in short the real thing

Yours was mostly peppers.

if you feel like yapping then yap it’s only natural although look at nature look at what it’s been driven to look everything is out of sync barely a week goes by without a lone bugle sounding for some lost species without a major institution shutting those doors quietly and for good without an airline going into administration because I mean who takes a machine flying through the air these days who goes out in a storm who needs the turmoil and being flung down on the earth

I’m fine now.

flying is for birds and if painters are anything to go by and they are because of the importance of paint and its many roles I mean whether you paint a picture or a door or just a skirting board one way or another who can imagine a world without paint and as I was saying if painters are anything to go by your man is possibly that Pablo more possibly the exuberant violinist-painter Maurice de Vlaminck of the violent daubs are you familiar with Vlaminck even remotely familiar anyway the Vlamincks of the world saw flying coming they had advance news of flying coming almost as if the Wright brothers had been overheard whispering by birds that tweeted and retweeted until the Pablos and Maurices got some message and Maurice of all people would not have been surprised to learn time has continued to get shorter by the minute would not have been slow to realise it won’t be long before the ants in the grass sit out the winds in our absence while cockroaches go white-water rafting on logs made from bones so make the best of it and keep in mind Vlaminck would have agreed with Pablo that tidiness sweeps away things of beauty and so with them at my shoulder I can fire off my theory with a bang and say confidently karoom that a person can be too careful blam he surely can risk a decent yap

But I do feel strange.

so iris to iris I can say that with that now clarified and out of the way we can move on to other areas where I can report that knuckles and ambiguous scratches have long been on offer and there have been so many meetings of pupils and irises and crossings of paths and this fitting with that in several physical and spiritual dovetails with coincidences springing from nowhere as a swallowtail appears a fantail forms and we might grow bold and claim what began as short lines in the most minor of poems could still become some great and gasping novel


as for thinking itself just consider how much goes on there is thinking ahead about this and thinking back about that and thinking about this place and that place and that person and that thing that happened in the café the other day and the door to the balcony snapping at its hinges and how this room is all white snow white but thicker and meanwhile at any moment some men may start shouting in the street below which is called Calle Valencia where you can’t help but notice a shop has put a rocking horse out front for children to go on and you can’t help but remember almost constantly that there is a rocking horse out there for children well I think about that too and I wonder if the balcony we will sit out on later weather permitting is quite safe I think almost simultaneously about what or who might come suddenly out of a doorway when we go out or whatever could come down from the sky since there are still the odd flights and still desperate men or women hang onto the engine cowlings of airplanes only to drop from the sky into a suburban garden and rest for ever beside some very pink camellias while missing a sunbather by a whisker and spreading blood about the garden walls well we’re thinking about all that at the same time as thinking about ourselves our family the old the young the dead the alive in my case the egg-seller of a grandparent and the sponge cakes that got made on Sundays and the soup bowls and barometer and the old brown radio dial and stupid steps inside houses and the borders of some garden plot with runner beans and snow-in-summer encroaching on the grass while the roof tiles are all Vlaminck

Don’t know him.

thinking all the while too of mountains and the trees everywhere the elephants blue-tits the hedgehogs that are all gone you have to be a certain age to say that or for your soul to lament the passing of hedgehogs it’s too much to expect younger souls to really care about hedgehogs disappearing along with the hedges or about the birds that have gone plummeting all at once to their deaths like starlings dropping I mean who cares nowadays about the hogs and the hedges about the life of beetles who cares about undergrowth I think about all that and the panthers maybe tigers in a library and the political situation now and who-knows-what while some people few in number but still people are thinking about Vlaminck and his fiery paintings then here in the middle of the city is that dog that Goya originally painted on his own walls own rooms in the half dark that dog looking upwards to the light probably drowning the dog drowning

I feel more literary.

it’s only natural in this once historically dry city some turn to name another to Velázquez Diego Velázquez painter of ambiguity dramatic lighting and death painter of the odd royal couple fading as their empire fell about them Diego that painter of sweetness and gloom while others have in mind some footballer fashion designer internet guru singer or the queen of somewhere or Karl Marx or Barack Obama or Montserrat Caballe Dollie Parton some have in mind how scary it is to go down a tunnel or be miles up in the sky thinking is running a mental comb through all these things through a kind of mad dance of pictures until out of the whole tumble comes the speech the yap surfacing you replying in the middle of which anyone could be forgiven for looking out of the window at the rocking horse here in Calle Valencia I’m not saying any of this actually happened

My mother is a fish said William Faulkner.

given the special access includes a pathway to your ears let me weigh up the pros and cons of telling one last tale the main pro being that we are now clearly shaking the room so much that the room is shaking us in a wonderful shaking which in order to be continued rather than concluded I welcome some distraction the rocking horse in the street is no help I really should tell some tale so here goes the tale a tale of a terrible mistake it was a hot day in July dash putting me in mind of the lines that went Twas in the month of Liverpool The city of July dash a lovely rhyme anyway it was a hot day in July and I had foolishly fallen for the great heartbreaker whose windows at her place were wide open particularly the big sash arrangement at the back it was as open as if there was no window at all and I was so hot I wanted to take off my shirt an act that was a great mistake which ended everything because the perspiration involved led to the disgust that ended everything when I could so easily have gone upstairs and taken a shower in the room on the landing

Moll Flanders.

so thanks to the heat and taking off the wrong piece of clothing at the wrong time in the wrong room arguably the wrong city I fell fowl of her the great heartbreaker who regularly brushed up the odd shard of heart from the floor left from the year before because it was her I asked Do you mind if I take off my shirt actually a T shirt and the answer came in the form of a nod more like half a nod which was also unfortunate since a different kind of nod a side-to-side movement or just the right murmur and we would have had the chance to live happily ever after but the fact is I’ve taken one shower too few in this life and despite this being years ago it goes around with me still as indeed in your case the empanada may be still

Daniel Deronda.

although mine had a pisto filling as it’s called meaning peppers and tomato probably courgette but to conclude this older tale of heat and sorrow on that July day we were sitting on the sofa watching a slow film set in the Scilly Isles which of course only added to the feeling of the heat despite the vegetation in the film blowing back and forth madly blowing like a Vlaminck painting yes that’s the end of the tale I’m still on the sofa I see the sash window open to the sultry starless already environmentally pitiful london dark my shirt drenched the sofa soaking

We saw that dog painted on a wall.

if it wasn’t the empanada maybe it’s natural enough to be rocking now the room is rolling there again maybe it’s a churning left over from the flight two days ago I mean a person can be as resilient as you like but throw them through the air miles up in the sky and they are bound to get a kaleidoscopic shake-up to touch down looking and feeling quite different from before and then not far from the airport the wind is blowing the trees you aren’t familiar with Vlaminck? he could set down a picture calling it fields but boy we may be rolling with the room but his winds bend the trees rip the trees right out of the picture frame out of the earth well his early work might have had some lovely pink on the steps of someone’s house but later all breaks out in hell in heaven between walls of white all blows apart




roars madly


by the looks of it fields are all that would be left after everything is blown clear out of the painting by the looks of it up and over various sierras north of lisbon into the atlantic


though the geography is entirely incidental given the shaking given the vital vibrations in the soul given the houses are on fire the clouds slapping at the sky uh in the soul oh Maurice

Oh Henry Miller.

white bed white floor eyes shut


a delight


still close


and lovely

and singing

eye to eye delight

the Maurices the Pablos the Diegos eventually forgotten

Still the stomach.

soon forgotten

I feel everything in the stomach.

on our sides

Off to the loo.

no birds singing

I’ll be quick.


white door white handle

no one there to remember them

no birds singing no painters painting

when were birds last singing        so much vanishing        a queue for what to vanish next        a clamouring        queues         up the hill        round the corner        queues everywhere        the old lottery queue        growing        growing and growing        white lampshades

Here I am.

miller who is this miller man

In my head I have the dog.

white ceiling rose


the heat

The dog.

yes the dog

Ghost of a dog.

white day outside

Disappearing. Going under, under a wave. The water was brown. It was up to its neck. Or it was earth, sand. Up to its neck in earth, looking upwards. A vast space above.


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