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2006 11 14
Watching the Neighbours at Night
So much of the city
is in our bodies. Places in us
old light still slants through to.
Places that no longer exist but are full of feeling,
like phantom limbs.
(Anne Michaels, "Phantom Limbs")

1. Phantom Light.

Under glass their bodies are liquid, wavering; steam moving in invisible currents, silent music. A restless static leaps from window to window, the electric backlighting of late night television and midnight sex. In a city without stars they are astral bodies, visible only by vivid contrast with the nearer dark. And we are drawn like doomed birds to the verge of this light: the city is never more visible than at night.

2. Phantom Limbs.

Behind the locked doors of a thousand apartments there are shoes standing like jaded sentries, and jacket sleeves waiting for arms that burst into them like incendiaries. The city is invasive: it requires this armour. But once inside, we strip off our clothes and sit in the dark, reorienting. Counting our ribs, checking for lost limbs.

3. Phantom Life.

At a distance the city glows like an aurora. Closer, it glitters, hard-edged. But after a day's journey it is possible to step down from the bus and turn toward any side street, the livid city receding with every step. Above the cadence of your own footsteps is only a faint wind, a hollow note high in the trees. Each dark house is outlined by the night-lit sky: bricks pressed together like pursed lips, verandah paint peeling in unseen burlesque. But life spills from a hundred windows: the scripted symposium of every supper, the silhouetted longing of a silent cat, a taper lit to dispel shadow, the moon's reflection in a glass of wine.

And I, too, disarmed my jacket in the darkened entry and set out my shoes like wired mines. I followed the cats to a darkened room, and kissed my love, and turned on the light.

(The above image of the TD Centre was taken by Metrix Feet and is used under the aegis of a Creative Commons license.)
[email this story] Posted by Amy Lavender Harris on 11/14 at 07:36 AM

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