All we can muster is a pained stare,
hoping no one notices our secret: we don’t care.
April can be the cruellest month
though it has showers sweet
and does sometimes pierce March’s drought
I really fucking hate February
with its bitter cold
days and evenings and nights.
And I know it’s not it
unable to appreciate the apricity
a favourite word for a small bit
of warmth on a freezing day.
Sitting there as if winter
were almost over,
bearing the cups of Carnival
and despondent gods
as a fucking child enraptured
by the fucking skies.
Pouring over poorly worded
sentences and claims,
delirious and feverish
declarations of love to the pound
to the ounce to the dozen
and cheaper if you wait.
Thank fuck it’s a short one.
‘You could say to the universe, this is not fair. And the universe would say: Oh, isn’t it? Sorry.’
(Soul Music, 347)
Terry Pratchett died today, at the age of 66, at over 70 books, at eight years of struggle with his Embuggerance, at home.
You can find multiple obituaries all over the internet as I type this, and I am not about to attempt another. No, this post is a way for me to process my own thoughts about Terry Pratchett and his writing, his world, and his impact on me as a reader. And to say thank you.
I never met him in person. I always managed to miss events close-by, and was unable to make the further away ones. The closest I ever got was researching his life and works for my first contributions to the Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature. Daniel Hahn – the author/editor – was, in fact, the person who told me the news.
I only met his books, and some of my favourite people through of them. Almost all of his books, at this point.
Starting with a badly received The Carpet People in Italian translation (by Angela Ragusa) at the age of 8, in primary school.
Ignoring them for a long while after that – only to discover Peter Gabriel’s Genesis The Carpet Crawlers, and thinking they were linked.
Being handed the English copy of Pyramids by ‘Auntie Penny’ for the length of a read around the age of 12, and falling, inevitably with a Thud!, into Pratchett’s books and the Discworld , and the world of reading, in English, harder than before. Or at least, that is how I remember it.
Rediscovering the series as I arrived in the UK at the age of 19, staying with Penny and Allan and Pen’s collection, via Reaper Man.
Re-rediscovering Lords and Ladies and Carpe Jugulum at the University of Leeds, with now Japan-bound Maria, who shared my raised eyebrow at the live-action adaptations of The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic.
Seeing the first theatrical adaptation of The Truth, a book that I never thought could be adapted, in Oxford, at the age of 20.
Retracing the pineapple on pizza footnote from The Last Continent for a seminar in my first year of teaching, at the age of 24, while also developing the idea of the T-Space for the British Centre of Literary Translation; an obvious rip-off and homage to the L-Space and its genteel Black Holes.
Softly, silently crumbling, at the age of 26, at the news of Terry Pratchett’s passing.
My enabler, Penny, told me to ‘remember what a legacy he left us all. He wasn’t afraid of dying, just very pissed off. A very sad day indeed, but for all the right reasons.’ She is right. As Neil Gaiman pointed out, he was angry. He was spurred on by fury, in his writing as in his living. And we should learn from that. We should channel that.
Given the equation (that camels also know):
Knowledge = Power = Energy = Matter = Mass
we all carry part of the L-Space and of its ideator’s fierce, furious power within us.
Time to also pick up our pens, and start to write.
From Sixteen Bar Blues, First Movement.
So I stay, crucified to an average afternoon
on the abyss of a kitchen table
between dirty dishes, this is also dew
thinking that it can’t go on like this
in the painful wind, standing still.
Sing to me the warm stream of acid
and the lead in my lungs
the grease of colloids
seeping through the roof
the thunder of presses, and the heat
sing to me the Red and Green of the Impartial
the pickets in the snow, crippled comrades
hits taken and given
sing to me an envelope that says
you are free from this
you are old for this.
Sing to me the days without beginning or goal
tell me what name I should pray.
Did God ever have to walk into a shop
with two-pounds-fifty, eyes to the ground
choosing the cheapest milk
for the Son, the only hungry son?
Does God know the price of a tin of beans?
Was he ever unemployed for years
does God know what it means to count
the change in your pockets, like kids?
God does not allow this, he wills it
in his Infinite tiredness. So we meet him
finally at arm’s reach, in the fading smile
of the cashier, after a ten-hour shift.
In the funeral light of the neon lamps, queuing
choosing soaps to eternally wash
the clothes we’ll soil and wear again
wedding dresses and killing uniforms
old shirts and glorious cufflinks
a football shirt, faded blue-green.
My son watched me in silence
on the short grass of a modest battle
that day long gone, proud of his dad.
The same dad today queuing for God’s will
with old men holding toilet rolls
and the hobbling old lady, worried
for the whimpering dog, tied up outside
loyal and silent son, never growing.
Between teenagers kissing, arms full of beer
and an undecided homemaker, carting too much meat
poisonous cows/arctic chickens/dinosaur bones.
And me, I who know the final chime
of the till, when it swallows fates at night.
I bought you milk, I know you like it
and a bar of chocolate, with the free toy
made in Taipei and I have no change
left to smoke, but it doesn’t matter.
While God sleeps on soiled clouds
and in the deserted field a football bounces
alone and loudly, a cloth-moon.
Within the shop walls a bull runs
in a nightmare, it dreams of its slaughter
and its fear wakes me up.