7 May 2011

Azaleas exercise

For the Writer's Group I'm with, we all had to do 1000 words using this image as our subject. The flowers are Azaleas. Here is my contribution.

These pink-white petals, caught in the mess of a shattered beam of sunlight, remind me straight away of your neck and how it curves into the top of your white shoulder. I recall solar shards lying wearily across the cool expanse of your flesh; the patterns swaying with the slow rhythm of your breathing, and flickering with the pulse I can see in your skin; a bumblebee hovering among the leaves of a wind-worried bush.

Yet, these captured rays and their luminous displays are bought at the price of the shadows beneath. For each illuminated lobe, basking and shining, there is a world underneath, robbed of light. White turns to grey when the sun is removed and the leaves and the stalks are just so much green plumbing; although as the sun traverses and shadows pivot, such functional limbs are themselves set ablaze with reflected celestial splendour and life. Each imprinted point of sunshine on the pale face of the flower seems to awaken a brilliant, self-evident purpose within: it must glow. Even the supporting elements are afforded their moments in the brightness, providing some contrast to the general scene as the flower bathes oblivious always. The permanently highlighted flowers and the shifting green shadows beneath form the picture we see when we recall a flowering plant.

You see, I thought of your beauty not as some merely two-dimensional photograph, but as a vivid, three-dimensional hologram. When tilting this image to one side or other in my memory, new facets of sigh-inducing jewels take their turn in the light and they flare. I ask myself if angel’s lips might be the same colour as these sunlit petals, this blazing flesh. And it’s usually about here that I start to wonder if I’m lending too much importance to the way I feel when I look on you, or on the memory of you.

(The difference between a flower in sunlight and a flower under a cloud is the same as that between the eyes of the living and the eyes of the newly dead. A flower in the sun is clearly living, even if it has been plucked from its roots. A picture of a flower without its accompanying foliage may be pleasing at first, until we admit that we are gazing at a beautiful severed head, as it dies.)

Beauty is still only beauty no matter how richly manifested it is. Physical gorgeousness drags me towards you as it drags a bee to a set of petals. The seemingly transcendent nature of the flower’s beauty is as functional as the structure of its stalks. Flowers are lures for pollinating insects. Prettiness is a lure for those humans who mistake it for beauty. I am just a firefly, barely sentient, careering across the evening sky towards the oh-so-alluring, greenly glowing specks of light in the shadowy hedge. There is no beauty in a face or a body, or anywhere. Objects can be literally attractive, but only in the same dumb way that a magnet is attractive to iron. It is nature. Why do we confuse prettiness and beauty so readily? Have we not, as humans, conquered such primal illusions yet? Or are we doomed to forever remain the slaves of lust?

This is how I talk myself out of those pangs of loss that grip me from time to time. If I blame beauty for luring me to you, then I must learn a lesson and flee beauty whenever I think I encounter it, as it is only a portent of forthcoming pain. No amount of wishful thinking will transform our flawed, pretty lover into the perfect human that we believed would fit their face.  An illusion of hope evaporates when we realise that the target of our amorous affections does not possess any of the magical virtues we’d attributed to them, and which we had loved all along: we were in love with a model form that we created in our head and no human will ever fit this template perfectly. It’s not their fault they aren’t really magic, is it? They never said they were magic did they? You wanted them to be magical and wishful thinking did the rest.

Thus I am delivered from my moment of nostalgia, having distracted myself. Now I can re-evaluate the image of the azaleas with my mind freshly retuned to calm, objective reality, can’t I?

The burning white reminds me of the colour of a blast of pain as it flashes through my eyes on its way into my skull. Hell is not red, it is as white as these sun-kissed petals. Just a few seconds of unfiltered sunshine on your retina has you begging for an eternity of glowing red no matter how, painful and permanent it is. A sun-struck petal is a tiny fragment of hell; launched into your eyes by a fiercely malevolent star that will one day consume every atom of you.

The sunlit, flower-sprinkled bush is a snapshot of vegetation right on the very point of flashing into flame during a nuclear explosion. Each bursting flower is a large-calibre, high-velocity bullet hitting a sleeping horse. It’s the fireworks at the end of the world, exploding over and inside the burning jungles. The white flames, the pink, scorched skin, the green smoke and the black, black eternity.

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