John Clare Writings

Apparitions

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His belly holds a certain fascination, though I would not like to see it bare. It is solid and tight, and though not flabby as far as one can determine, is big enough to wobble disgustingly. Not huge, but well rounded, like his calves, it is clad as usual in a leather waistcoat the colour of a milk chocolate block brought to a smooth shine. The colour of milk chocolate dusted, however, with the kind of curry powder your mother or even your wife might have used, lacking as genteel English women would have done in those days, the dusky arts of blending spices. He is wearing fairly tight white pants of the kind we called moleskin, with two toned brown boots – the lighter brown being confined to the tops which seem to have been turned over below the knee and polished. Two-ply tops. What age is this? My memory has gone.

I have had none of his larger speculative outlays, but small fees for minor tasks performed.

He appears suddenly. I do not go to him, yet he still seems – always – to be the major player. Somehow he just seems to know where I will be when needed. he steps confidently out of the background, his face condescending to a carelessly transparent pretence of friendship. Well, something approaching but never arriving at friendship or at least a shared confidence. It is as if I am being let into something, yes, but having achieved whatever it was he wanted of me his tightly measured smile vanishes, and so does he, back into the train. As I have told I watch through my binoculars a comely lass on a glossy chestnut horse as she flies backward, shrinking as the landscape expands around her and I glide on the viewing platform through the green of England. Wondering which of these manor houses he might own. Which rivers run through his verdant land what his neighbours, if he ever sees them, might think of him. For he was not born into any of it. Then I wake up. He was not real.

Sometimes apparitions like this appeared during my two strokes. That doesn’t mean that everything I have written here has appeared in a dream or as a hallucination.

When that is the case I will say so. But random groups of bushes or hanging clothes or patterns of shadow form into figures, personae, sometimes sinister. They seem to be parallels, earthly projections of beings from the other side. Even when I have dis-assembled those optical illusions, the figment remains in the air as the aura of a real person. I have an odd compulsion to record things as far into the dying process as any man has. No, that’s nonsense. As far as I can.

Once more my head is splitting at the back and I am sick to the point of vomiting, but can only raise a half-hearted burp. At least I have moved some gas around. In a couple of months I will be 75. It is my desire to reach that respectable age. I am not so sure now. But I have had many adventures and weirdly, yes very strangely, I have met many notable people. And when I make note here of such a meeting the famous person, the noted notable, will appear in the news. As did Bronwyn Bishop, you may recall. Right now it is Malcolm Turnbull. I had begun the account that follows some weeks before he became Prime Minister.

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