Yet not silence, for there are small noises constantly rerippling the slow-descending peace. If it were light we would see it as a splashing, electric commotion on a windless water. The street wants to be silent, yet ever and again new aeroplanes pass overhead, furious cars astound the air with their noise
. Few cars pass along
this street, but their noise is incredible compared to the unfulfilled silence that wants to fall like a blanket and blot out the memory of such dragons.
The flap of people's soles when they walk by, flooding up Doppler-rich when you're trying to forget the last echoing aeroplane. The wait while they pass me, eye me writing notes, wonder whether I've been locked out, -- and they rattle their keys, slam their doors, hail their partners, or worst of all start their car.
The calm votive evening air, the unmoving rowan berries, the pinkening haze of clouds more transient and more eternal in patterning than the sea, try to settle and become the only knowable things. In Gray's day the ploughman plodded his weary way, and having passed, was the last. Not here. Not in the city: however quiet the street, the cars never really stop, the conversations never stop bursting out again, there are neighbours on every side to interrupt the evening for one minute more.
This is a quiet street. I am out here sitting awkwardly against the low brick gable of the fence, to drink in the silence. The roads on either side are hellishly busy, yet it doesn't penetrate in here at all, so close. My street leads from nowhere to nowhere. You can't be passing through: you have to be beginning or ending your journey here, local, a sharer with me of its genteel quiet. To my right, occasionally, a mad car passes on the short cut from one main road to the other; but that's not very busy, I can't begrudge them that.
Reg comes by looking tired from a day at the office, his suit bedraggled. He asks whether they've thrown me out and I explain I'm admiring the silence. Homeward he plods.
Aeroplanes in London are ubiquitous. Not a minute can you look up without hearing their hum, seeing their puffy trails rolled out to clouds, counting the midge-specks of their bodies, most too distant to hum.
I am in the street because it's quiet. I live here because it's quiet: was quiet when I came up here looking for accommodation and the landlord and I liked each other's safe natures on first meeting. I would keep the peace. I knew I had found peace. I am on this street because it's quiet now: the shadowy gloom and poise of trees beginning to shine out as the world darkens, reclaim their protectorship of the night.
One birch is hugely tall, fireworking up into the boundless blue. A small tree has vivid berries, emanations. A hairy cat strolls, doing perhaps the cat version of my writing. At the far end the murky cypresses are visible on their entangled darwinian bank, mourning and inviting, awaiting their papery, ghost-whisper ichor of night, when planetglow has cast away colour.
The street's full of cars but they're asleep, tethered by residents, bedded down till the morning madness. Not asleep. Cars have no animal faculty, no shadow, no knowledge of times and seasons. Red brick houses can gain souls accretively from the time, moss, architecture, children's games that live upon them, but in this street they are too young to have acquired the persistence of shadow. They are nothing but substance: merely solid.
Beneath the hard pavement, the asphalt trapped in a sliver of time, shadows live: grass, buttercups, horses' passing, thistles, stones and dust.
Window-sashes, aerials, heating flues, car tyres, taillights, they'll cease to be. They're solid here; they have nowhere else to go: when they end, there is nothing more of them, no memory, no need, no transforming pleasure.
The grass and soil below, the beetles and ants, the berries and leaves, cypress and bluebell and primrose and rose: real things cast their shadows into the world, and take into their number, once in a while, a black gate that some child has been thrilled by the squeaking of.