from Spiritual Letters

David Miller







         Spiritual Letters (Series 5, #1)




The woman twice shouted hello, and I stopped twice in the dark street and turned and replied, Yes? – Wrong man, she said after a pause.She woke from a dream in which her father offered to have sex with her – woke, too, to the memory of his death. In the window of the children’s hospital: papier-mâché figures of a cockerel and a mutilated man (one leg cut off at the knee).  I turned down a lane past a silent and dark playground, slides and wheels only dimly visible. Met by chance in the street, she called for me to keep up with her as she ran down a flight of stone steps. I called back that I couldn’t, as a bus had recently injured my foot. A metal ramp, leading to the long pier illumined by fluorescent light. I sat in the wine bar until three in the morning with an English friend back from Abu Dhabi and an African princess. The princess had held out her hand for me to kiss, but my lips met the long sleeve of her thick white wool cardigan. Branches hanging over the stone wall beside a bus shelter, a wooden bench further along the street. A night of strolling together, talking, waiting, leaving each other and coming back. A white china teapot, left on the edge of the footpath. She quickly had a thousand umbrellas bought and distributed, one for each person, when a sudden downpour interrupted the unveiling of the shrine. Was she really just trying to impress, or, as it was said, putting on  airs?  I  thought  she’d  said  a  lake  of  stone,  but  later  realised  it  was  a  lake of snow. – Let me in, your friend said, having woken you with his unexpected arrival, and make me some lasagne – then I’m back to work on my new masterpiece, which you’ll read about in the art journals. He was carried by chair through the streets, with hundreds of helpers bearing his gold streamers.


the drawings

through crystals

frost snow hail


a candle

the mirror



Gazing at his reflection, he mentally undressed himself; he couldn’t linger, however, as his next analysand awaited him. While my sister tried out perfumes, I bought candied kumquats in another part of the shop. A girl in her mid-teens – my own age – by accident smeared my coat with her ice cream cone and apologised profusely. Bluish zinc cladding on the rooftops. She had scratched out her own eyes in the graduation photograph. – I won’t be making the trip to meet you, I said; I’ve broken a rib. – Oh, she said, I know how painful that is; I once had several broken ribs… a spinal fracture… and facial lacerations. The architect suffered a fatal heart attack in a station lavatory, his body remaining unidentified for three days. Keeping three separate households, he’d deleted the address in his passport. Looking down from the top of the slope, to the slate roofs dissolving into the sea. Estuarine memories, dreams. As he lay naked in bed, an eagle smashed through the window of his hotel room and fell stunned amongst the glass fragments on the floor. Wrapping it in a towel, he threw the reviving bird back outside, where it flew off.He wrote to me of a lucid dream in which he swam above an underwater town and decided to dive down and explore, even going into some of the houses.





Spiritual Letters (Series 5, #2)




Yellow flowers, green leaves growing from no visible soil on a low roof across the way. Though they were staying at the same hotel, she sent her companion a series of postcards. On New Year’s eve, we strolled among the crowds by the river, strangers shaking our hands or kissing us. He wrote of her performance that it belonged more to pyrotechnics than to the art of dance. It is a sort of living fire-works. Where he stopped the car at a light, aclarinettist was playing wildly and well, so that I wanted to get out and join in. You closed the wooden shutters and secured them each time before we left your apartment. All in one day you get beautiful sunlight, thunder & lightning, wind & rain. Nights you look up at a clear, starry sky, and far off at no great distance hear thunder. Shops and cafés; steps and public squares, old houses and fountains; walls with graffiti. At night, we walked so many streets, always…. – The bar was so dark you could scarcely see around you, but there was nothing to see anyway – no pool table, no pictures on the walls; the bar staff didn’t try to talk to you, just poured drinks: it was my idea of paradise. He listened to his visitors’ stories during the day, and to their dream-like stories at night. Ah, if I die on the boat, she sang, throw me into the sea, / So that the black fish and salt water can eat me… – Are you sure you’re all right? he kept asking as we made our way back, drunk, on the bus, and I told him he was being condescending and finally stopped speaking to him. As soon as I entered my doorway, I collapsed to the floor. The monkey-puzzle I’d passed so often: uprooted, gone. The woman with a cane sitting in the train carriage, who looked so like you… could I really no longer tell? Heartache, heartbreak: you old twin standards. A few seats away from me, a man repeatedly called someone a bitch over his mobile, before he hung up. When she phoned back, he said: What do I want? I want to destroy your face. – There’s a pigeon out in the garden that desperately tries to get into the church. – Perhaps it wants to be saved. The love we bear to the blessed martyrs causes us, he wrote, I know not how, to desire to see in the heavenly kingdom the marks of the wounds which they received for the name of Christ…. Through the streets of the town or village, the funeral portraits were carried in procession with the bodies of the dead. Painted in black: words enjoining the dead to be happy, and a brief farewell.They’d accepted him as a novice in a Carthusian monastery, but he hadn’t yet told them about the AIDS. In hospital, dying, the artist referred to the writing of his will as a “career move”. Another night I can’t sleep, he wrote in his diary, …not even calling you to mind, your eyes, your hands, your mouth… yet unable to sleep because of you. Alone in a small village, far from home – sudden anguish caught him, anguish building on anguish, and none of those he phoned responding to his calls. The group of friends went out together at the same date each year to repaint a small, neglected island church. It would have been impossible to get them to do it at some other time, simply for a filmmaker. The day we were in the stocks I had this vision: I saw the place, which I had beheld dark before, now luminous; and my brother, with his body very clean and well clad, refreshing himself, and instead of his wound a scar only. I awoke, and I knew he was relieved from his pain. He’d seen you running, pell-mell, down a crowded street. – I needed to get to a park bench to sit and think, you later explained.