Bartók’s Dance Suite and sour
I think some small creatures are taunting me; sprites perhaps.
They dart up and down like the house martins in our nest all
those years ago. The violins, violas, whatever other stringed
instruments bob nonchalantly to and fro in the sea of sound:
that is what they are. Little bodies, writhing, calling, teasing,
baby birds that never grew up but will screech forever, their
mouths wide. I tell you all this and you laugh. You did music
at college, you know the technical terms. I lean back to listen
further, my beanbag soft, the house dark but for the tiny lights
fuzzing from the speakers, flickering from another world like
the will o’ the wisps, or maybe just fireflies. Was this written
in a war, I ask. Composed, you chide. Not written. And does
it matter? I say, maybe. It just sounds like it could have been.
It sounds like something unwelcome coming, something hot
and bright and colourful, but scary too. Something dizzying.
There’s this sense in the notes – or chords? – towards the end,
this sense of someone screaming in both pleasure and pain at
exactly the same time, neither emotion stronger than the other.
Both infinite. How can horsehair do that? Maybe it was from
a kelpie. You have been quietly chuckling, but now you point
at yourself, accusingly and say, maybe I am all that, to you. I
nod vaguely, snuggle down deeper as my edges blur. Whether
it’s me or you – will we ever know? In peacetime, perhaps. Or
when the music ends and we turn on the lights. I don’t want to.
I want to see a green flash, that tiny speck of emerald light
that appears for one moment when the sun first rises. I want
to see St Elmo’s Fire and the Northern Lights. I’m normally
not bothered about bucket lists. I prefer living, appreciating
the ordinary. But these things – they have long drawn me in.
These lights, that appear only for seconds, at a certain time,
in a certain place and over which we have no control. We
don’t understand them, not really. That glorious thing: we
still don’t understand them. We can watch fuzzy film clips,
scrutinise photos but they’re not real. The sky’s lights are
one thing technology can never bring us. I saw a firework
display on the way home in summer. It was so tiny, but to
the people watching it, the people under that bit of sky, it
must have been everything. That day I had been wishing
for something beautiful. It was like a sign, a flare sent up
to call to me from who knows where. My father once saw
Hale-Bopp, the two-tailed comet, on a night-time drive.
It hung above him all the way. He described it as biblical.
Elizabeth Gibson is a Masters student at the University of Manchester and a Digital Reporter for Manchester Literature Festival. She is a member of The Writing Squad and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Cadaverine, London Journal of Fiction, Now Then, Far Off Places, Octavius, Severine, Amaryllis Poetry, Gigantic Sequins, Jellyfish Review and Ink, Sweat and Tears.
Elizabeth’s blog http://elizabethgibsonwriter.blogspot.co.uk