John Clare Writings

Midwinter Summer

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When it is remorselessly hot; when you have to race across the street as on hot coals because the tar is melting under your bare feet, a plunge into the sea is anticipated as a moment of delicious transition: a luxuriously complex rush of sensations, a nanosecond in in which unbearable heat and luscious cold will be experienced simultaneously before you are enveloped in the amniotic sac of perfect coolness. Yet even if you live by the sea – as I did when indeed there was tar on the beachside streets, this moment is elusive and time seems unstable. Unless you run and dive, which can seem quite oafish if the beach is crowded – as it will be if it is really hot – you will find yourself walking toward the water in a zone that is probed by the sea’s cool radiations. You can smell the salt and the day is no longer full of solid heat. Hints of the colder medium will have already touched you, giving the faintest unease, the sense that it might even be too cold.

Someone might charge past you and another return, dripping and reaching for the towel. In the green shallows some will be lolling around, lifted and sometimes bumped rudely by the foam of a shore break. Now we are entering paradise. The water runs back over the wet brown sugar of sand and a brief reflection of the sky evaporates on the receding slick. Time is no longer linear. It is deliciously unstable. Flesh – wet and dry, firm and flaccid- is moving all about you.

Indeed this region is so subtle that you come to desire it, with all its unstable complexities, as much as you do the plunge. This is heaven with all its vagaries. Perhaps heaven itself is not perfect. Clearly, Lucifer was not happy there. Would he have tried to exalt himself above God in a thoroughgoing paradise? God knows. Perhaps. In my mind I am there though I am freezing in a freakish winter in which snow is falling on the edge of the tropics.

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