Verso 1 The back of a leaf
What is said and what is unsaid; what is written and what is withheld. What is withheld is on the left-hand page. These are left-hand pages. The moment they are written they will not exist. That is, they will not exist as themselves. As they were first conceived. What is withheld is on the back of the leaf.
I have withheld more than I have written. I have restrained more than I have given. I have left unsaid more than I have said. I have withheld much more than I have withheld. Even these nine left-handed pages have already created their own left-handed pages, as will be seen. I will have added for clarification or withdrawn some detail. I will have parsed the structure of the sentence and the meaning of the sentence and reformulated it to resolve some understanding that was tentative in the first place but that merely for the sake of agreeing to a rule of syntax I have to present as certain. Moreover, I will have cleaned out all of my doubt, or all of my prevarication, or all of my timidity.
The left-hand page is a recursive page; each verso becomes a recto. Each left-handed page generates one right-handed page and an infinite number of left-handed pages.
What is withheld multiplies. The left-handed pages accumulate with more speed and intensity than the right-handed pages.
They are chronic. That is to say, they are always present, occurring, intrinsic and incurable, unfailing and uneasy like freight. The freight of withholding, gathered over years, becomes heavier and heavier. Indefinite and unbounded weight.
There are bales of paper on a wharf somewhere, at a port, somewhere. There is a clerk inspecting and inspecting them. She is the blue clerk. She is dressed in a blue ink coat, her right hand is dry, her left hand is dripping; she is expecting a ship, she is preparing for one. Though she is afraid that by the time the ship arrives the stowage will have overtaken the wharf.
The sea off the port is roiling some days, calm some days.
Up and down the wharf she examines the bales, shifts old left-handed pages to the back, making room for the swift voluminous incoming freight.
The clerk looks out sometimes over the roiling sea or over the calm sea, finding the horizon, seeking the transfiguration of the ship.
The bales have been piling up for years yet they look brightly scored, crisp and sharp. They have abilities the clerk is forever curtailing and marshalling. They are stacked deep and high and the clerk, in her inky garment, weaves in and out of them checking and rechecking that they do not find their way into the right-hand page. She scrutinises the manifest hourly, the contents and sequence of loading. She keeps account of cubic metres of senses, perceptions and resistant facts. No one need be aware of these, no one is likely to understand, some of these are quite dangerous and some of them are too delicate and beautiful for the present world.
There are green unclassified aphids for example living with these papers.
The sky over the wharf is a sometimish sky, it changes with the moods and anxieties of the clerk, it is ink blue as her coat or grey as the sea or pink as the evening clouds.
The sun is like a red wasp that flies in and out of the clerk’s ear. It escapes the clerk’s flapping arms.
The clerk would like a cool moon but all the weather depends on the left-handed pages. All the acridity in the salt air, all the waft of almonds and seaweed, all the sharp poisonous odour of time.
The left-handed pages swell like dunes some years. It is all the clerk can do to mount them with her theodolite, to survey their divergent lines of intention. These dunes would envelop her as well as the world if she were not the ink-drenched clerk.
Some years the aridity of the left-hand pages makes the air dusty, parches the hand of the clerk. The dock is then a desert, the bales turned to sand and the clerk must arrange each grain in the correct order, humidify them with her breath and wait for the season to pass.
And some years the pages absorb all the water in the air becoming like four-hundred-year-old wood and the dock weeps and creaks and the clerk’s garment sweeps sodden through the bales and the clerk weeps and wonders why she is here and when will the ship ever arrive.
I am the clerk, overwhelmed by the left-handed page. Each blooming quire contains a thought selected out of many reams of thoughts and vetted by the clerk, then presented to the author. The clerk replaces the file, which has grown to a size, unimaginable.
I am the author in charge of the ink-stained clerk pacing the dock. I record the right-hand page. I do nothing really because what I do is clean. I forget the bales of paper fastened to the dock and the weather doesn’t bother me. I choose the presentable things, the beautiful things. And I enjoy them sometimes, if not for the clerk.
The clerk has the worry and the damp thoughts, and the arid thoughts.
Now where will I put that new folio. There’s no room where it came from, it’s withheld so much this time, so much about . . . this and that . . . never mind; that will only make it worse.
The clerk goes balancing the newly withheld pages across the ink-slippery dock. She throws an eye on the still sea; the weather is concrete today, her garment is stiff like marl today.