Waiting for Dusk

Whoever in the span of his life is confronted by the word “pomegranate”will experience a mixture of feelings: a longing to see at least once the face of a Mediterranean god or nymph or faun; the memory of an old silver mirror decorated with images of varied fruits; a regret at never having known the spell of a summer picnic ending with the taste of acrid seeds spat over the bridge parapet — you look down at your scarlet-stained fingers and up at the weather of the sky as it changes (a black thunderhead, a blue depth), thinking of the same weather crossing centuries and landscapes.

I don’t know whether I like the pomegranate as food or dislike it; perhaps neither, thinking of it more as a bridge to other, lost lives. But here now is Simon, with his smiling silly face from which he extracts tough seeds from his teeth with one awkward forefinger, a spell of not unsympathetic bad manners that, if truth be told, is a mirror of our own, perhaps more furtive acts. Then he puts on his mask, made of mirror-like chromed metal, and I think, why, he could face and kill Medusa! Any weather has its charm, even the green tempest surrounding her writhing snakes that spell death to the unwary traveler, snakes like a wreath of leeks in a Dutch still life where a pomegranate cut in two glows idly near the table edge.

I stroll with Simon, averting my eyes from his face, on the path that leads down to the edge of the stream and the pool under the bridge where fanged pike lie deep among bearded stones. The pillars and vaults of the bridge rise sturdily above us and are completed into wavering ellipses in the mirror of the slow-moving water. This is a moment between here and there, between the face of worldly things and their unstable reflections which in the basically sunny weather suggest reveries tending to sleep, and then sadness. Remember the pomegranate sliced on the unvarnished table, I tell myself, that’s something sharp and real!

But the spell of the season and the melancholy hour, sweetened and damped with wine, spell another evolution of my afternoon of regrets, far from the Mediterranean and the bridge at Pisa, far from the land of nordic dream where the lemon and the pomegranate drop irregular sweet-and-sour globes on slopes scented and dry that are the dusky mirror of a life so seemingly simple that we think of even the treacherous weather as a seamless warm continuum of sun, moon, and stars. I know that I know better, I try to face my life here, with Simon: he has taken off his mask; it has left on his face a stripe or two like accidental marks of his real pain but that in fact spell nothing but themselves — nothing. He appears relaxed in this comfortable weather, sauntering ahead of me as we cross back over the wood-in-concrete bridge, unaware that in the declining light his silly smiling face is the mirror of my disjunction. The picnic spot is littered with wrecks of pomegranate.

Can my face ever be as actual as a pomegranate? Will the weather ever settle down? What dumb idea will replace the functioning bridge? What spell can make the masks of things real? What mirror will reveal them?