At Night

Deeply lost in the night. An overwhelming pong of hamster and hair oil. The air swarming with nocturnal gnats. In the distance, under the elevated section of the motorway, scores of loudspeakers pounding out non-stop reggae and rock music. A night of dread, but is it natty? Nashe wrote of the terrors of the night, and there was nothing natty about them. Or gnatty. Oh, sweep them away, the swarms, or disperse them with a blast from a bicycle pump.

Imagine if Lee Harvey Oswald had been armed with a bicycle pump rather than with a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. He was unable to drive, so it is plausible he could have had a bicycle, and thus a pump. Imagining such a thing, such twaddle, distracts from the dread and the terror on this night of nights.

This night of no owls. Where have they gone? The yew tree’s branches are owl-empty for the first time in living memory. Remember studying them through night-vision trinoculars, the mystic third lens for the mystic third eye? Invaluable goggles.

Night came crashing down so suddenly. Up there, fat stars glistened, unimaginably distant burning rocks. Down here, hopelessly lost. Magnets ceasing to function, compasses pointing in unknown directions never previously seen on earth.

In tenebrous gloom, trying to decipher the scritti. Muck underfoot. Approaching the ducal potting shed, behind eerie shrubs. Someone must be there.

The first sentence, and the last, were translated from the German by Tania and James Stern. Everything in between was not.

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