I was walking down to the local Tesco yesterday to grab a sandwich for lunch. I had just got back into writing for my thesis and was pruning the idea, specialising – a horrible task for the generalist and, dare I say it, the poet. The clouds huffed and puffed at me, blew irritating raspberries – like some Renaissance cartographer’s idea of persecution from the heavens. Ruthless, minute mosquitos of rain gnashed at my cheeks. I lowered my head and persisted, like Juggernaut, like an army that marches on its stomach.
An old man almost walked into me, hunched over like myself as he was. Who stepped aside? I cannot remember.
It gave me time to pause. And I saw something that could not be real, something that was not artful. A signpost floating on the drab road. Something more than just a shift from the vertical axis to the horizontal. Not X or Y, but Z. A different dimension.
I was surprised. I walked a few paces away. But then I turned back. There was a draw that could not be resisted.
Looking back on it, the reaction reminds me of the first time my nephew saw the furry rocking horse that his father had bought him. This chestnut stead of first wonder. He was confounded by it and circled it warily before leaping upon it in delight. And then he stroked its mane like he strokes my hair, and pulled at it to see if the horse was dead or alive, thing or human…
I pulled my camera from my bag and stood snapping at the licence plate while other pedestrians bustled past me, wondering what I was doing.
And why and why, I ask myself. Why did this scene of accident created and time interrupted have such an effect on me? Of a code wrenched from a frame? Of a meaning lost in transit?
The G, bitten and broken. Bitter G. Almost vanishing. So fragile, so savaged. So exposed. Separated by number from what I first thought was LUV, not LUZ – this strange cross between Lust and Love.
The licence plate floats. A label, a name has fallen from a thing. It has escaped its owner and its double. Somewhere an absence that can never be remedied – like the Ship of Theseus in philosophy. Licencing fails. The mark that we confer on distance is wiped. Aesthetics prevails. A name becomes a picture, numbers become poetry. No one looks. There is nothing to read beyond what is – no reference, no law, no securing, no meaning.
Just a licence plate floating absurdly and unwanted in the road in the rain.