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This report is taken from PN Review 160, Volume 31 Number 2, November - December 2004.

From a Journal R.F. Langley

August 1979
Solus to the track at King's Farm. Looking for owls, but also looking for the way things handle, and, for this, it is necessary first to simply stand still, which is at once to sidestep the roles. Full light still. Pink cumulus heads look over flint-blue, low strata round the horizon. Rain over. Smells in suspension, solid and sweet. Along the edge of the field, where stubble has been ploughed in, a drift of smoke-blue mist. Patches of froth in the puddles in the track. Small flints crunch. The field is edged with hedge and bracken, under which is a hidden warren, obviously, as rabbits are out over the broken soil, lolloping. Binoculars see the ginger patch on the back of the head, behind the ears. The ears translucent like the corn stubble. The high eyes, big and set in bone. Tranquilly the dusk comes, soothing the air. Two blackbirds quibble and cluck. A robin sings. Grasshoppers begin, and keep it up, two of them, to my right, louder and closer. Bats twist. Pigeons make their moves. The sky yellows. The pink heads whiten. More silence. I am under an oak, and the leaves hang round, each curled, faded. Some eaten to the veins. Others just pierced. The doing of this is something over, and knowing how it was done, by maybe, caterpillars, is like knowing a story. If I saw it being done... it would be like listening to a story, surprisingly pleasing to be being shown it, as it is now to watch a fly, in silhouette, moving round a twig. So separate and far a little event, I am only hearing about it. The trunk of the tree glows as it blurs in the darkness, so that, though it is close, it looks impossibly far. Just glimpsed, although the signs are I am looking steadily at something two feet away. Its base descends into bracken, which, I take it, shadows the trunk down there, a long way down, by my feet. Very, very gentle shadows. Amazingly unemphatic and gradual, and the bracken so still it must be behind glass. All this is indoors, to judge by the feel of it, and the smell, too, seems to have accumulated in a room. When wind comes, slightly, the curved twigs give a single jig, each its own way, perfunctorily - a gesture to show that they move like that, that twigs move like that, the account of how a wind might move them. Instead of coming closer to objects and events, I feel them move off further into fiction. Their establishment is due to a grip I have on them which comes, as I think this out, from a sense of sinus pressure at the inside of my eyebrows, either side of the root of my nose, and, if I push out my lower lip, from the tucked muscle under that. A warm control, which keeps anything chilly and immediately real away. The bent leaves are a sight I see. The furry `trunk'. The white plates of water in `puddles'. The spectral rabbits melting, repeating their excursions and retreats. My head has to be turned to see the different corners of the scene, which come in turn, then, not as if they were all there, all round, all the time. I scan all round, with the binoculars or without. The field of vision. Things behind the head are not there while they are not being recounted, but are recovered each time I look. Strictly memories. How briefly the sounds come above silence. In the leaves, a tapping, as of hard moths on dry paper. Sometimes in a run, like a single pebble. Reality is not possible, because immediately the noise is in the past, and one of a pair or more of fictions. A decisively heavy blow in the thicket, not followed by any consequence. Is there fruit to fall, or feet? Only possibilities are made by these sounds. I shift. A response of some sort, on the path, about five paces away. I need the binoculars to collect light enough to see even that far, and it is a... now I come to it... in bits... yes, a rabbit, rigid, looking, sitting, tense, quite clear. It relaxes, hops away slowly round the curve, past a puddle. The response, I work back to it, was its sudden jerk as I moved. Did I make it a rabbit by expecting it? Not so. I was not so primed. By now I don't even expect to walk back to the village. The world does continue to produce rabbits. They are features of something I am not making. But no more full of impact than events in a story, products of that decorum. To die would not be to see the world stripped of glosses then, however terrible or exhilarating that might be. It would be to read it from behind this block, this thick, warm, spectatorship, this warm audience seat. Opening to the world... there is no such possibility. It would be easy to tell other stories about it, so that a demon appeared as objectively as the rabbit did - but pointless, since that fiction too would be a tale. My head would turn, and either side of the look is the silence, and immediately before and after the sight, it would, as now, not be there. Walking through sentences. I hear this bit, then that. Already the rabbit is résumé. And, when I move, my heavy shoes will crunch. Others will hear and see. I shall knot and shrink, a snail clenching, and stop watching, and be a role, which, in another way, is a system of parts - feet walking down there, shoulders hung out at the sides, hunching, a collection with no discernible centre to consider and contact it from, know it from. Indeed the release will come when I just let myself out into it again, and, giving up knowing, just do it all again. Once again the absolute sighting of me, or of the rest, was not there, and, as Nigel reminds me, back in the sitting room, just as well, since that sort of given solves everything, and at once takes away the process in which we live and find any sort of responsibility, over `seventy thousand fathoms of water'.

This report is taken from PN Review 160, Volume 31 Number 2, November - December 2004.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this report to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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