Every now and then Eurobodalla Writers would like to showcase some of our members wonderful stories.

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Background to the short story Still Point  © Ross Meredith Pascoe 2017

Find an emotion in this extract from TS Eliot’s ‘Burnt Norton’ and write to it –
At the still point of the turning world,
Neither flesh nor fleshless
There the dance lies
Do not ask me where I’ve been
I only know I’ve been there, at the still point.’
At the still point, you say. When all that binds the heart are severed, then
there is stillness, then there is immortality. To accommodate this need to return
to the best of memory is not stillness. It’s the mind folding under the weight of
change. In truth, too much change across a single life is toxic and so we embed
ourselves in objects to hold the essence of who we have been. Objects retain
Oh, Thomas, T S, Mr Eliot, we are vessels of time, the poet more than
any flies closest to the candle’s flame. Makes of himself a hollow reed that
every humanness will enter through and fix upon his soul, born as we are in a
questionable state. WHY, coursing through the entrails. Stirring in the bowel
of our discontent since Eden cast us out. Fluxing flesh and thought into the
immortality of the poet’s holy word.
WHY, has you, sir. You have made challenge to it. Yours is still the age
when people contemplate so very much and the poet, sir, the poet is a voice of
great and mighty reckoning.
Have I said too much? I do ramble once I’m off and running, sir. We are
talking about you, Thomas, T S, Mr Eliot. Picking a barnacle from the
leviathan of your work and pretending we might find a flake of your mind.
Writing about an emotion we hope to glean from your eternal state. I have
discovered wistfulness me thinks in the beauty of your words.
I do love this poem, Thomas, T S, Mr Eliot. I know a much loved country house burnt down, Mr Eliot. Burnt Norton, Mr Eliot. I know you were very attached. But it is you who freed me from attachment by releasing time. This abstraction in which all there was and all there will be dwell in a single state, in a perfect unity. The universal order of God.
I believe I have detected wistfulness, sir. Its cause is this certain advanced age upon which you enter and those thunderheads of approaching modernity. Modernity is not for you. You would arrest time yet it is upon us.
No respecter of any man, it lays the many little deaths over the self before the
big one, sir, the final breath.
As players in this Shakespearian drama, sir.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
We must rehearse you see, and so the little deaths must dull the keenness
of the eye, remove the urge to be a man, if I may be so bold? It gathers beauty
and returns decay. It robs one of all he has loved, and leaves a shadow. Like
those poor dears who were evaporated at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, sir. They
were people but now they are novelties for the tourists. How wonderful the age
that a human can be evaporated. Perhaps they have found this still point of
which you write so very beautifully?
I can’t except it, sir. I’m sorry to say, there is no, still point of the
turning world. The old get older. The dead are dead a little longer. Even now
change is brewing as we speak across an age. The maelstrom casts its pall and
the still point is but a memory and the little deaths will take all from us before
we are done, sir.
But your poetry, Thomas, T S, Mr Eliot. Your sublime poetry has in its
way stilled time, hasn’t it? You are long dead but in my little writers group we
search for you.
Reflection does present a passing stillness, these precious moments. It is
our human way, this age of reflection we enter, the summing up as we gather the lint of our lives. No intention meant that memory and temporal existence be devalued, they present us with moments of greatest beauty. Lead us on our wistful way, the melancholy journey. If God were not real we would surely have to invent Him in this stage of life just to make it bearable.
I must concentrate on the task at hand. We writers tend to waffle
somewhat. We tend to come at the solution from roundabout ways. It may be
this artistic bent that . . . Yes, yes, wistfulness, my apology.
I sensed the sweetness contained a bitter aftertaste for this life you have
lived gone through. All poets are unhappy, sir. The more so the greater the
poet. What better vehicle to present the foibles of life. The loved and lost.
Setting the drug of dreams against the pain of living.
You were such a feeble boy. America far too wild and unsophisticated
after Emerson and Longfellow for you. That Walt Withman fellow following
the garden path, pansies in hand, meandering to realism.
England, what? I say, cup of tea, what? Cucumber sandwiches, what?
The English are a sad lot. Not terribly robust. The dampness and the ghosts of
plague still secreted in the timber and stone of their living now. They know
how to suffer well. They know their place and not to grumble about the royal
buffoonery. It was a grand idea to become British and live amidst the dusted
vaults for they seep the misery one requires to be a really grand poet and you
Towards the end we are all defeated. It is only natural that you filled
your verse with the allegory of the Book. The Eden of the mother’s breast. The
Eden of the blush of first love lost. The Eden of the fathering of new life
grown beyond the mighty rooted oak. Why would you not then seek the still
centre and the flesh and fleshless dwelling of the mind when we are cast out
from so many Edens?
One wonders for the self so much as for the poet with this task they have
set me, because we share a common fate. This wistfulness comes in upon the
shore a fog of all that’s been and gone. The essence of what was in misty curls around our feet and we are left to ponder much the cruelty and the sublime state of being.
I too am wistful, Thomas, T S, Mr Eliot.


This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act
1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission.

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