DAY 240: The snow

February 16th, 2018 § 0 comments

Or have I referred to snow before, in these divagations? At least three winters have passed, I think, (2015-2017) since this journal started; and it would be surprising if at some point I hadn’t commented on its presence in a facile way, either as a news item because refugees were (as they are now) freezing to death in it in the streets of Paris while the state’s hirelings shut the doors of its shelters and rip their tents; or because I have used it as a metaphor for something (whiteness, blanketing, cold, stillness, it’s an easy game). [128 names of unaccompanied minors were listed as in danger in Paris by a group of concerned lawyers a week ago as temperatures plummeted. And of course the same is happening across Europe. Who gets to read about it?]

What does this social disintegration signify? I was reminded the other day that Jorie Graham, who I refer to perhaps too rarely, was notoriously caught in a snowstorm when bringing her daughter’s forgotten leotard, and saw a huge flockimages-2 of starlings, then tried to grasp the problem of unity in multiplicity:

Then I heard it, inside the swarm, the single cry

of the crow. One syllable – one – inside the screeching and the skittering’

inside the constant repatterning of a thing not nervous yet not ever still – but not uncertain – without obedience -

yet not without law – one syllable – black shiny, twining on its single stem,

rooting, one foot on the earth,

twisting and twisting -
I could go on, and as you will remember, Jorie does, in ways which I couldn’t begin to quote or analyse thank God. (Indeed, flicking through her writings she seems to draw on snow quite a lot, which leads me to think that she ‘s a denizen of the northern United States.) What I hadn’t realised, being pretty ignorant about poetry among other things (e.g. the classification of click-consonants or the structure of the tobacco mosaic virus or how to fix a leaky tap) is that Ms Graham in an earlier poem had touched on some of my own obsessions (not snow) viz. tear gas and the CRS. Yes! Writing about Paris in 1968 – you’ll remember – in a reminiscent mode in ‘The Hiding Place’ from ‘Region of Unlikeness’ – how much of it can I get in?

Marches, sit-ins, helicopters, gas

They stopped you at gunpoint asking for papers.,,,

and torn sheets (for tear gas) thrown down from shuttered windows

and bread; and blankets, stolen from the firehouse.

The CRS (the government police) would swarm in around dawn

in small blue vans and round us up.

Read it all! Particularly the man who started beating the girl in her eighth month.

In my own small way I’ve been having a similar problem with how you unify experience- haven’t we all? The weather (oh don’t let’s go back to that), refugees, buses, gigs in Islington, ballet, what’s on Netflix, getting phone credit for people in tents -yes I could write a good few lines on that. How can we be convinced that these multiple experiences are unified simply by the fact that one person is having them? I should go back to Husserl who probably thought either that they were or that they weren’t; but I lost my copy of Ideas I ten years ago, and I didn’t understand it too clearly even then. This person worries quite a lot about all his experiences and their seemingly amazing diversity. Is there any meaning to being part of so many different frames of reference? I could for example give you the benefit of my recent information about the long-running battle of our old friend the SSHD with a seemingly endless sequence of Sri Lankans, who are arrested, beaten up, and so have a not unreasonable fear of persecution, but can’t (of course) get asylum in the U.K. because they can’t produce the documentary evidence that they had the experience which led to the fear, indeed that they were even in court; notoriously, the British legal system currently operates on the assumption that all refugees’ stories are made up, and in particular that documents from Sri Lanka are probably forgeries and acquired for a few rupees in a not-unreasonable-fear document shop. (See for example P.J. (Sri Lanka) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] EWCA Civ 1011.) But why should I do that – it would probably needlessly distress you when there are so many other problems in the world? Did their persecution actually happen?

To change the subject if only slightly, Stand For Humanity, an outfit run by


Yasmin Autwal, a friend of mine, has produced an 18-minute talk on themes which run on roughly parallel lines to some of my own usual ones – Calais, not being apathetic, connecting with your fellow humans and that; about halfway through the talk an impressively wise old 78-year-old geezer tells her that yes indeed things are now worse than they have ever been. (And, like Jorie Graham, he was around in 1968.) But how does he know – say about the time of the barbarian invasions, or the conquistadors? Was it snowing then – not to mention on the retreat from Moscow, on which I’ve quoted Victor Hugo’s snow-filled lines a couple of years back)

And, whatever the 78-year-old may say, there’s always (as Edgar says in King Lear), worse to come:

The worst is not

So long as we can say, This is the worst.

It’s easy, as Billie Holiday reminds us, to blame the weather when what is really responsible for the whole débâcle is neoliberalism; and that isn’t going to go away unless we give it a pretty good push.







Leave a Reply