(Note: Any performer of the piece should feel free to reassign the appropriate gender pronouns as they see fit)
There are two of us
He is always watching me
As I start to feel anxious or happy
He tells me what's happening to me
He can read the signs
He’s clever that way
I don’t know which of us is saying that
It doesn’t sound like me.
One of us knows he’s going to die one day
One of us knows that both of us are going to die
I am not sure if we both have names
Or if it’s the same name.
Once, when we were young
And didn’t know that there were two of us
We used to weep together
When we thought that God was angry
He’s our Father
We didn’t know then
And don’t know now
don’t know if there were two of Him
then or now
There may have been…
We learned before we knew there were two of us
That there is no way to tell what anyone else is really like
We’re our own company
Our own best friends
It’s better that way
I don’t know which one of us said that.
There is no doubt a kind of safety in it
Being locked down and alone, just the two of us
A security and a community, suddenly.
When we go out for a walk in the park,
And see other people seeing us
When we see that they are as alone as we are
Swerving to avoid us, trying not to be seen to.
Avoiding being looked at.
Avoiding being looked at.
We appreciate their agility
And wonder for a moment if they feel now the way that we do
The way we feel
Alone in our rooms, these few, comfortable rooms
With all our books and ghosts for company.
Father , son and holy ghost.
I can hear a voice
It could be my voice
He could be hearing my voice
Or I could be hearing his
I used to be very sure that it was my voice he overheard
And not his voice that I overheard
That we spoke
Whether he wanted to or not
Looking at me impatiently in the mirror
When I took my heart medicine.
I don’t know as it matters much whose voice it is.
I don’t know if he feels the same.
He reads me better than I read him
It doesn’t sound like my voice
I can hear a voice.
There is nothing else for me to hear
I used to like music and old movies on TV
Or I told myself to like them
But I never really did
I’m ashamed of myself now
Of my old enthusiasms
For games of doubt and conjecture
Infinities and such, journeys…
I look on myself now as I was then
With affectionate contempt.
Or is that him? Is that how HE sees me?
The other one.
I remember when I first discovered him
Or he discovered me.
I was unwell, and feverish
I did not feel like myself
I had been reading
In the way that I used to, before I stopped reading
Before all these books, these voices trapped in them
Started only to appal me, shouting at me for attention
Vulgar whores, exposing their ideas at me
Till I saw him watching me
Or he saw me looking up at him
Sweating there in bed while he looked down on me
Passive, maybe secretly smiling in a way I didn’t like
Knowing things I didn’t know
Understanding the course of my illness
Clinically. Scientifically, like he understands everything
Not “knowing” - he would eschew the pseudo religious etymology
Of the idea of knowledge –
But observing me as a subject within the evolutionary paradigm
Me and my virology, as equals,
Worthy co-inhabitants of this fleshly envelope
Bacteria and myself being coeval phenomena
in the sweated torture of limbs
my harsh breathing, my fear and conviction
that I would never breathe alone again
I spoke of him, of course
To parents, God and doctors
I asked who that boy was who floated above my bed,
So wise and assured of his uniformitarianism
I was told he was an hallucination and would go away
But no, they were wrong
He has been with me ever since
A constant reminder of my inconstancy
All through my recovery
Past the point when I came to see him
See his face was mine. See he has my face
I don’t know any more about him now than then
I do not know which one of us is saying that about us.
I do know that recently I’ve been seeing more of him
He’s been easier company now that I no longer resist him
And I no longer pretend to any life without him
No activity he does not mock
No learning his very presence in my life
Does not belittle
Nothing about me he does not make small.
I hate the other one secretly sometimes
I don’t know who said that
But I know he heard me say it.
Good! Good , then!
If I am to subsume myself to him, let him subsume himself to me
Especially now that illness everywhere
Has made him and me so commonplace
When I see it in the eyes, when I catch the eyes, of the people in the park
They know now what I have known for years
They’ve discovered that they are haunting themselves
You know too.
You do know.
You know I’m not crazy.
Even so, it was a thing to do,
To undertake becoming
To silence all the noises I once used to use
To distract myself from myself.
To lose them all, the books, the music
The flavours of food
To abjure all that
Deny all that to myself in order to hear him, see him properly
It wasn’t easy.
There were times I even thought I was wrong.
I wasn’t wrong.
It’s so clear to me now
I feel so light and free
Unburdened by pain or hope
In the present tense forever
No memory, nor future
Living here and now
Just the two of us!
Is this a state of mind?
An observable phenomenon?
You’d have to ask him.
For me it is pure experience!
I do not even doubt myself anymore!
I leave that to him!
I have always been this way! This is the way I have always been!
That is the key to this revelation!
You wouldn’t understand.
I can see that
But sometimes when I see the eyes of the strangers in the park
Lidded and terrified, struggling with their own secrets
The desires and fears that define and confine them
That they don’t understand
That they can never see, not themselves
Then I can see that the despair I felt as a child
Helpless as the illness raped me
Shamed me, exposed me
To him, to his gaze
And that when I opened myself to him
When I left off my reserve
Left the last shred of dignity
In my soiled pyjamas
That it was freedom
Freedom to surrender myself to him
I know what you’re thinking
And there is a superficial resemblance between
Religious epiphany and my inevitable embrace of the other
I understand your confusion
And I forgive you that you know not what you do.
When you insult me and degrade me so
As to compare my new understanding of the cosmic duality
With some mere Pauline revelation.
My sickbed was not my road to Damascus!
But I can see why you were thinking that.
Surrender to some all-knowing deity
Has been relief to many a tortured soul
But this is not that.
There is no relief to my despair
Of the burden of a meaningless, purposeless life.
There is merely the acknowledgement that
Meaning and purpose are not MY problem
They are HIS problem
That there is no soul or self as there is no God
What life may mean or what its purposes may be are no longer my concern.
I can see him, or rather, not see him
Smile at me in his secret way of his
when I say something as naïve as that!
As gauche as that!
I can just see him.
I love and hate him all at once
Like it or not, he, like God, or the soul or self
Or any such notion of that which is beyond
That which cannot be touched but which sometimes felt
Like a holy ghost on a darkened stair
I found him, all of him
When I looked up when I was ill and saw his face
Which was of course, my face
But which was part of the world, the universe
Outside of me
My unconscious, lived, animal experience of being.
He was the wanderer and wonderer, not me.
He was the one who looked and saw my illness
As some Darwinian contest of atoms and quanta
Of the virus and myself.
Him, not me!
He was the one to whom it mattered what it meant.
And I don ‘t think that my giving myself to him
was too high a price to pay for my recovery.
Me! My recovery! My taste, touch, sensation!
My joy! My love! My music! My poetry!
And if he has demanded since
That these should all fall silent and tasteless to me
Then that too is part of the price
Of this continuing.
If all I can see is see his face
Which is, of course, my face
If all else is silence and darkness
Save his secret smile
Benign or maleficent
Then that too is the price of recovery.
And if for him, there is nothing to see but me
This fleshy envelope of impulses and competing bacteria
This empty universe of death
This mere appetite
This mere instinct to cling to palpitation
That I can no more wish away than I can wish away wishes.
Then that is his burden
That is what he accepts from me
That is his peace which passes understanding
I do not know which one of us is saying that.
I do not know which one of us is saying that.