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Walking Conversations: Sitting In the English Faculty Library

Photo by Niamh Jones

Yesterday I walked home with a plant in a large paper bag. I had been thinking about it all day and decided to take it home: large, green, rubber leaves. Its leaves were pulled up at the edges of the bag, as if to fold up again—as if it had ever been folded up?—and not spread wide, wide leaves like palms, like hands spread open.

And today I am sitting in the English Faculty Library, looking into another barren building and onto a barren road. I see a white van pass, two black cars cross by each other—and I see a woman walking along the road with a plant in her bag, its leaves poking out as if she is carrying an animal whose eyes and ears are emerging. It’s smaller than mine and has softer leaves. It sways more quietly.

But you must hold the bag gently, you mustn’t damage the leaves. She is trying not to swing her bag; she is trying to hold it straight, keep it level. But it is tipping, tipping to account for the weight of the hiding plant which is attempting to sprout leaves past the bag handles, trying not to fold upwards, trying to rustle in the air, gasp. Two people pass by her, one holding her arms out to drive an imaginary car wheel.

It is windy today, cyclists are cycling fast outside the window in the current, and the chestnut tree at the end of this bookshelf passage in the library is large, many-candled, has many candle-holders. The sight of it makes a large sound in the silent library. I wonder how loud the conversations are in people’s minds, silently reading their books; as loud as the silent chestnut tree? 

Is this a storm? Other trees are shaking, the candles on the chestnut tree are tipping. I wouldn’t know, I am stuck in the fishbowl: a fish looking out. A fish caught behind the window of the English library, in the library’s quiet.

My plant, its large leaves, its dark greenness, are in my room. I wonder how much light is in my room, if any is touching the leaves and is falling like water down its rivets. Each leaf—each leaf I imagine from my seat in the library—is like a pool of water, perfectly flat, the face of the water, the face of the pool, and will illuminate with the light that falls into my room. The light that falls into my room when I am not there, when I am looking out of the window in the English Library. 

The chestnut tree outside the window is drooping, drooping until it gestures in the wind as if responding to a current in water. Another cyclist comes past.

The wind, the wind; there is no wind in my room, the trees outside are shaking. When I leave I will walk through the wind; I will return to my room, I will see if there is any light on the plant in my windless room. I will look at the tree outside my window, I will wonder if my plant, its leaves, are missing the chanting leaves outside. My room is silent, my plant is silent; there is no silence in the wind outside, there are too many leaves.