BIRDS FOR A WHILE by Rosanna Albertini
Images by JEAN-LOUIS GARNELL
“Like the Druzes, like the moon, like death, like next week, the distant past forms part of those things that can be enriched by ignorance. It is infinitely supple and yielding; it offers itself to us much more than the future and poses fewer problems. One knows, moreover, that it is the chosen spot of mythology.” Jorge Luis Borges
THE DAY THAT TIME GOT LOST AND FOUND
Lines and a six foot distance to buy bread, salad, whatever. Like flocks of birds? We move as a bunch, as if obeying, to whom is not important. Birds do better when they fly away from a power line, all together, and draw regular, movable forms in the sky. They migrate and cover continents of distance. They seem to know where they go. We didn’t move for about three months, and don’t know anymore where the future goes. Bipeds without wings.
Do you think birds have a sense of time? ‘Just the difference between day and night,’ Peter answers. ‘Do you know what day it is?’ he asks me. ‘I am not sure, I thought it was Saturday. No, it is Wednesday.’ I am nailed to a wish of coordinates as empty as the page of a calendar.
Maybe I’m becoming free from counting and squeezing into an infinite grid of little windows the pleasure of looking at the sky, following the clouds, or smelling a peach. Imaginary volumes of time become hurdles, and I jump and jump to keep the schedule in order. Time? We make it, paint it, frame it, only to end up with a strange deception: I don’t have time! And my watch has disappeared.
Like my ancestors from the Renaissance, I keep dearly in mind the illusion that, when I think, I touch something despite the distance. As my mind saves the immediate sensations of walking, or stroking my ankles disturbed by neuropathy, a careful register of my aging, she saves as well past sensations I hide somewhere, maybe behind my ears. For no reason my hands search through a pile of dusty papers I saved for decades. At the very end, underneath photocopies and magazines, a page cut from a newspaper appears, spiteful like a squirrel: the first important long article I wrote in Italy about contemporary art. I could write about the light going dim at the end of the day and the shadows stroking my yellowish piece of paper, but I don’t. Virginia did it in such a sublime way that I can just keep my words clean and poor. Without thinking, I decide to scan the article, frame it and put it on the wall.
Tiptoing and creeping up from the marsh of the old habits sinking underwater, time comes back: it is a body of eight minutes and forty-six seconds, the time Floyd was deprived of life nine days ago. An online chain of messages offers the idea of a peaceful action, at home. “All we need to do is to go outdoors (rooftop, front yard, back yard, street, any place outdoors) and turn on a flashlight, or emergency light, and point it to the sky for exactly 8 min and 46 seconds starting at exactly 9:oo pm.” The full moon kept her face modestly behind the fog. Our lights hit the top of the palms. Floyd’s death felt as a long, very long time.
Back in the house I put the article on the wall, and saw my lost watch.
Borges, a Reader, Edited by Emir Rodriguez Monegal & Alastair Reid, New York, E. P. Dutton, 1981