Border Crossings I

 

by Mary Paterson

It was a blustery day in Sangette.

Clouds were low. Winds were higher than desirable. Let’s say it’s worse than you might have been hoping, had it been you. (Things are frequently worse  than hope and yet there we go, staring into the night in the hope of  a lighthouse.)

The year was 1909, five years after the UK summoned legal controls to its wet edges.

Lighthouses are built of trust. They are built by other people, blinking. They are built by other people, blinking into the sky, and operated by other people, climbing up and down and round and round, and being dizzy is a tiny price for cupping in your hands the hopes of sea-strange sailors in the service of desire, which is to say: a future reference.

But someone, one person at least, had not been able to sleep through the itchy spit of anticipation. He woke up M. Bleriot in the dim mist of early morning.

Adventurers (male) are known by their surnames. Other travellers (male/ female/ child) are known by their first names. The former is a convention for the preservation of history. It matters. The latter is a convention for immateriality. It doesn’t matter. It follows. Adventurers are always on purpose: theirs is the future and all of its riches. Other travellers, but other travellers, are always what they left behind.

Bleriot woke up, bleary eyed. It was a job to convince him to breakfast. But breakfast he did: settle his stomach to settle the score. While he ate, perhaps, or seconds later, his wife boarded the warship named Escopette, after the rifle. Two men nearby were his serious rivals. Fools: their engineers had not fought the tide of sleep to wake them. This was the first heavier than air flght across the English Channel. This was a competition. This was sponsored by The Daily Mail. 

The year is 2019.

There are no prizes for those who cross the water by air, by sea, by tunnel, by clinging onto wings to wheels, to freighted desires. They’re not called adventurers. Not even men. And not the women. Not the children.  I mean, the foreigners. I mean the migrants. I mean the tongues that curl around words that belong to the names of places, let’s say, we cannot pronounce, or places, let’s say, we cannot imagine. Let’s say, it’s worse than you might have been hoping. Things are frequently worse than hope, and yet, there we go

Lighthouses are built of rust. They are built by other people, sinking. They are built by other people, sinking into the sea, and operated by other people, sinking down and down and round and round and being dizzy is the last gasp of something in your lungs; the breath of sea-strange sailors in the service of desire, which is to say: a map reference.

The year was 1909.

Alice (for she was a woman) boarded the warship, or to be clearer, the destroyer, and waited for Bleriot to fly.

He said, “For more than 10 minutes I was alone isolated, lost in the midst of the immense sea, and I did not see anything on the horizon or a single ship.”

And so to the naming:

first names indicate a phase they should like to grow out of; where they is Them and Us is many. (Hold me, hold me, hold me, etc.)

The year is 2019.

Count the missing the missed, the presumed, the dead. The count. Count one oh two four so far this year. Of which one six seven equals drowning. Of which four one seven presumed drowning. Isolated, lost, In the midst of the immense sea. One oh two four migrant deaths so far this year. On the wet edges of Europe, the UK, the channel, the borders the places with names our tongues don’t say. From some miles inland, Us take this view. We cup warm tea in imported mugs and shake our heads, solemnly. Some things we cannot change.

Change.

Once there was a campaign for names: Stone Names. To be written in stone names. To be Ne’er dissolved names. To be first names and middle names and nicknames and last names, The very last names, of Them: lost at sea. By which I mean lost. No light, no prize, no strange seeking souls. By which I mean, drowned. By which I mean Left to Drown. By which I mean Plunged into Waves and Sunk There. I mean Murdered I mean Killed I mean Dead I mean dashed against the rocks but don’t think it was quick. I mean salt-wounded but don’t think it was quick. I mean don’t think

The year was 1909.

There was no compass aboard the plane. The Escopette, complete with Alice, was the lighthouse. The Escopette, complete with Alice, was to guide the plane across the channel (Le Manche) to the town of Dover (Douvres) on the English coast (la cote anglaise). Here, Bleriot (l’aventurier) would and his plane (Type XI) and claim his prize (mille livres) from The Daily Mail. He said:

I was alone”

Bleirot landed with a bump. His was the first heavier-than-air flight across the English Channel. The first time a craft filled with fuel stuck its nose this far through the fog. He said,

isolated, lost in the midst of the immense sea,”

he said

“it was the most beautiful dream.”

Who

is dreaming?

I mean, who’s dreams are you dreaming? I mean, who’s dreams are you not dreaming? Who’s names are you not speaking? Who’s journeys are you not watching? I mean, the missing, the missed, the presumed, the dead. I mean salt-wounded but don’t think it was quick. I mean don’t think (Hold me, hold me, hold me, etc.)  Most emphatically try not to think how this goes on, how this still goes on. Not to us but for Us.

I mean, not the going, but the

stilling of it.

 

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