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THE CRETAN WIFE

three videotexts

MICHAEL BLACKBURN

The Cretan Wife Michael Blackburn, 2013


Sunk Island Publishing Lincoln

Where Are You Going?, Midway This Life, The Cretan Wife, all originally written as texts for videos by Michael Blackburn (2006), originals on youtube.com/sunkisland

Also by Michael Blackburn

The Constitution of Things Why Should Anyone Be Here And Singing? Backwards into Bedlam The Lean Man Shaving The Ascending Boy Portrait of the Artist as a Cyborg (hypertext) Let's Build A City Black Swan Of Trespass The Stone Ship Big on the Hawkesbury Pocket Venus Spyglass Over The Lagoon

WHERE ARE YOU GOING? My travels had brought me to a lake in the centre of a city in which I had once lived. In those days the streets were dirty and littered with the rubbish of downcast residents and disconsolate drunks. Now it was the rubbish of building sites. Everywhere was the sound of cranes and machines. Life is not like crossing a bridge, I thought, not even like falling into the river the bridge crosses and being ignored by the madman who has been pacing around by the water for the last half hour, ignoring the swans that the tourists love. The images of other lakes filtered through my mind: Semerwater, Huron, Tuggerah, Balaton. Attached to each one are perhaps two or three memories, each lasting no more than two or three seconds: the sound of a curlew at Semerwater, diesel rainbows on Huron, the smell of coffee at

Tuggerah, the bright white wall of a hotel at Balaton. Life is not the same as crossing a field or a bridge but perhaps it is more like falling into the current and being carried away. I have found in my travels that no matter how far I journey or however much I experience, I always end up repeating myself.

MIDWAY THIS LIFE At the fourth hour of the second day of our journey we saw a small flock of sheep under a large chestnut tree. My companion believed them to be cows. I remonstrated, saying they were obviously sheep, though their coats were closely shorn and they were indeed large animals. My companion continued to disagree. I put this down to his lack of years and excess of egotism. The argument was resolved in the usual way. We also discovered a tree with unknown fruits that were hard and covered with a velvety green skin. At first I thought they were almonds or walnuts, although after crushing one beneath my foot, it was obvious they were neither. We plucked a number to bring back with us. Half way on our journey we came across a yellow boat abandoned in a garden. We were told this was the boat in which a local man had singlehandedly crossed the Sea of Partition, but we were sceptical. We

continued through the wood. After a while we perceived a road ahead. My companion, being young in Olympian years and thus lacking caution, wanted to dash onward, but I made him follow behind. I prepared for the unexpected, just in case the tigers returned.

THE CRETAN WIFE I was accompanied by my wife, who was 15 years my junior and spoke with a Cretan accent which the others found either disturbing or mysterious, depending on whether they came from the islands to the north or to the south. As we passed down the ancient streets of villages I often caught sight of the men staring at her with expressions of both intense attraction and repulsion. She began to have occult dreams and waking visions. She saw people walking through doorways that no longer existed, ghosts seated at table in full sunlight, triremes making their way along the coast, half naked warriors from the Peloponnese sprawling by the riverside, their helmets and shields filmed with dust. She said she'd listened to an hour-long conversation on a telephone that had long since been removed from the hallway of the hotel in which we were staying, a conversation between an irate mother and her wayward daughter in Piraeus in 1921.

This unexpected activity left her drained of energy yet nervy and alert at the same time. It made her so languid that she moved slowly and sensually, her limbs relaxed, her black hair loose. A dark, erotic charge flowed from her, and I burned fiercely within its radius. Our lovemaking became strangely violent. She would display herself, insouciant and passive whilst recounting her latest dream or vision. This would excite me and the more she babbled the more aroused I became. Even in the midst of our passion she would continue her breathless narrative. For months we travelled on the mainland, through the mountains, along the coast, staying only in villages and small towns, never in cities. And we moved from one island to another, without haste, without plans, without destination.