Dec 11, 2017

sycamore key

—what is she to him, after all? He cannot settle his mind. He does not miss her, since she seems so insistently present, in the yellow lichen wrapping the bare beech branches, in the kestrel he once saw skimming the oaks, quivering its outspread tail. Coming to the green stair—faded now, the carpet muddied—he thinks of her impatient hand on her own skirt’s hem, and the taste of her, and he comes undone, of course he does; but that is not the whole or peak of it. How simple that would be, and how contemptible! But the truth is (and he remains truth’s disciple) that casting about for how best to name her he can land on nothing more exact, more honest, than to say: She is my friend.

For all that, he does not write—he hardly feels the need. She signals to him in the high mares’ tails overhead, in the turns of phrase she has borrowed and lent, in the curled scar on his cheek; and by similar means he imagines he also signals to her: that their conversations go on, silently, in the downspin of a sycamore key.

From Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, easily one of my reading bests in 2017.