We do not see the hut when the lights first come up, and then we see it. Its inhabitants are not interested in us, perhaps because their problems do not concern us. These women spend their days waiting for a man, and they know that one day he will come. Lights shine upstage from the front of the stage, illuminating a door in the back wall. Neither fully open nor quite shut, it swings gently on its hinges, creaking intermittently, as though the fitful wind outside the hut is knocking to make its presence known within. Then the light sweeps downstage and to the right: we see a flight of stairs rising to the princess’s room, mirrored by a flight on the left leading down to their larder. Centre stage is an old-fashioned, rectangular dining table—or rather, it is simply old: it has no identifiable fashion. Around this table there are four chairs, the back of one slightly higher than the rest. The chairs are not neatly arranged but are scattered about as though hastily vacated. Between them wend the backs of two women dressed in black, cleaning the shabby furnishings and complaining.
Such complexes of fortifications, said Austerlitz, concluding his remarks that day in the Antwerp Glove Market as he rose from the table and slung his rucksack over his shoulder, show us how, unlike birds, for instance, who keep building the same nest over thousands of years, we tend to forge ahead with our projects far beyond any reasonable bounds. Someone, he added, ought to draw up a catalogue of types of buildings listed in order of size, and it would be immediately obvious that domestic buildings of less than normal size—the little cottage in the fields, the hermitage, the lockkeeper’s lodge, the pavilion for viewing the landscape, the children’s bothy in the garden—are those that offer us at least a semblance of peace, whereas no one in his right mind could truthfully say that he liked a vast edifice such as the Palace of Justice on the old Gallows Hill in Brussels. At the most we gaze at it in wonder, a kind of wonder which in itself is a form of dawning horror, for somehow we know by instinct that outsize buildings cast the shadow of their own destruction before them, and are designed from the first with an eye to their later existence as ruins.
— from Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald
nes t ree
in turn I bore straw
much straw and went
in search of a tree to make
my nest but a tree I did not find
and with the straw I’d gleaned I packed
my chest I picked a field and I stood upright there
The long fact of the turned face is named faith.
Through the tall windows opposing the tapestries
that depict the gaze of the lion, low hills with dark cows
remain far. A pheasant plump in the dirt, a voice saying you,
and modern angles guide us into the room where we were
never again, as in the absence of any machine a man
watches the ball propelled down the lane toward him
then bends, pins in hand. I hear his regular breath.
He came early with the news:
the best of Khindif, full-grown
and young combined, is dead.
No one brought their enemies
more fear, nor saved so many
held captive. Their pearl. Excellent
in war, undaunted, always the one
to meet kings: it did them proud
when he spoke. His bloodline
was perfect: you could trace it
back, a column reaching all the way
to the tribe’s origin. As a bright star