IN THESE STREETS

The shoeless ragged boy who thieved in these streets is a part of me. So are the dour spokesman of a joyless God and the pock marked seller of lavender. Perhaps they, too, knew the tenderness and unbounded hope of love.

They lived here, and conditioned the bricks and mortar with their thoughts and feelings. They moulded my language and bequeathed me their outlook and attitudes. No-one can escape the past.

The undernourished maid who died blacking grates; the grey wigged judge who clung fearfully to his logic; the exquisitely mannered slave owner: they are all me, and perhaps they, too, knew vertigo as the solid earth of love cracked beneath their feet.

Maybe silver buttoned bus conductors and tweed jacketed students also knew the impatience of reasoning with the unreasonable, and the desolation of reaching out to the unreachable.

The eccentric failed musician, and the conscientious executioner, might have shared my undercurrent of anger, provoked by hostility from one to whom they had given everything. I am who they were. No more can I claim to have shaped my own thoughts and behaviour, than could the mountain fighters of Lebanon or the monks of Tibet.

Yet I have been myself. I am an assembly of cells not replicated in the vastness of universe or infinity of time, and the trace of my actions has been unique to me. Understanding is elusive, and accounting for what I have done is beyond my reach. But the pressure of history, an accumulation of thoughts and events, has led to this belief prevailing in this place: that a man must account for what he has done.

My sympathy has extended to a distraught child, and to every person in misfortune. I have basked in the sunlight of friendship, and known the frenzied need for anotherís happiness. In all this, perhaps I do no more than follow those who went before. Did they, too, feel terrifying fury which cannot be restrained?

I have been a wild animal howling in the night, filled with anger fierce beyond imagining. I have been two warring people, at once defending and reviling what I have done. All this, too, is a part of my history.

Now all I crave is peace. To think and feel nothing. But there is no escape from who I was, shaped by my forbears; and there is no escape from who I became, shaped by my behaviour.

At last, they are at the door. I shall go with them and, when they question me, shall say yes, of course I killed her.



© Roger Woodward, 2014