His journey through the language-scape began on a day overloaded with snoflakes. There was no voice beside his own. No warm fingers that could melt the dry cover of crystals. He was not strong enough to bear the clock ticking in the wind or the silence of his doorbell.
The occupier stood by the window and read the first letter he has received. ‘ Dear occupier, if you are still holding on to the english dictionary, now is the time to let it go.’ Letters gathered in the niche of his letterbox. There were no answers. Just the sound each morning as a new letter slid in to join the others. In the evening quietness his gaze moved between the frosty curtains and the letters. ” who can guide me to the meaning of this effort?” he thought , but there was no response.
He spent three quarters of his Income Support on dictionaries. His little home became a small library: every bit of furniture managed as a bookshelf. Every day he tried not to blink while reading because blinking would slow his passage through uncountable English words.
” You look like a monument!”
” I beg your pardon?” He was suprised.
” I’ve forgotten my keys…” The young woman was asking for his help.
” Excuse me, I do not understand.” Afraid of talking to a beautiful people he drew the curtains.
” Dear neighbour, stop reading these words in alphabetical order, these definitions.” The echoes of her voice destroyed her sleep. In the bathroom he could refresh his face but not his eyes. Someone else was reflected in that night’s mirror.
She enjoyed his pronounciations as he practiced reading out of doors. His voice wove through the trees and she would lean her head against a bark touched by the echo of his words.
” Do you mind if I record you?” She stood on his way out of the park. The footpath was wide but the gate was narrow.
” I’m sorryy, I don’t understand.” He was afraid to use ordinary words. Afraid he could not dance to the music of thi clear speaking young woman.
Until sunset she thought about her next chance to get to know the man with the bag of dictionaries. It is not certain she recognised the changes that had already reshaped the space inside her flat. Dusk was soot and remained impassable. ‘ I am like a violin caught in a glass of starlight,’ she thought and was eager to her thought.
“Where are my own words? Where is my music?” She screamed but the frequency of her voice was beyond human hearing. She plucked at the strings of her instrument but it was not enough: her fingers were dry as paper dust.
Unsatisfied she saw only imperfections. In the broken fragments of her dreams she was a street musician, he a dancer on stilts. Each of them seeking a lyric.
“Dear Occupier, I seek your calming presence,” she wrote. But he did not receive her words. From the beginning he was offended by the word ‘occupier’ and had stopped reading letters not adressed by his real name.
” I cannot find a single word.” He turned out the light. thick darkness whispered to him , silent in the bedroom but audible from miles away. Seeking to rebuild the ruins of an unknown distance he began to sing, awordless baritone flowing from behind his curtains, a borrowed voice coating the air at dawn.
Shrowded in mist
Flowers wilt in cellophane
Refusing to die
They lie in that wrapping
Vases gape wide
Rainwater will fill them
Only the sky’s
Blue eye is blooming.
She believed in miracles. If she could tune her wordless song to his tone she might draw him from the shadows. Intutively she knew her mother tongue might move him from yesterday into tomorrow.
“Dear Singer, let me accompany you. ” She followed him to the park.”Words do not have to seperate; music can link them together. ”
The park was lined with people. They were the fountain and the fountain was a rainbow reaching further than beyond, emerging from his dream.
Raindrops clamoured for another song, wrote new words on the abandoned pages of a dictionary.
Milorad was born in Dalmatia, Crotia and studied language and Yugoslavian literature at Split University. He has worked as a language and drama teacher, as a librarian, and astage director. He came to Uk in 1992 and has been writting poetry in English since 1994. He has published two collections of poetry : Easel and Ashes (2000) and The Language of wounds (2002). He teaches at Brasshouse language centre in Birmingham.
Milorad enjoys the light and half darkness of theatre and cinema; the paradoxes of historic sites; the mosaic of towns and villages, countryside, seaside, rivers and bridges. He likes travelling with return tickets.