|Virginia Woolf: Street Haunting
If shadows come in grovesVirginia Woolf preferredLondon in the dark
of an afternoon whose pale islands move from lamp to lamp, anonymous beneath
and then a grove of sunslanting to the lastas if in walking ona tribe of them
was made.Virginia Woolf liked the silence of the hurrying formshurrying home
dressed in cold.As a city, all is surfaceor a succession of surfaces that change
texture and color, all its greys upon a greyfiltered in shadowamber to a window
climbing as does the gazethat glanced above the treesa window's other lights
and theseas if we, turning over or arounda slower hourheld the hour back
by which we are released.As by the dark, we sign away
a certain hold that held us towardor lease untied.We
catalogue the many kinds of light:one surrounds, a warm
hand turns to a faceas a faceglides through its pool
and other streetlights whitelike those that cut across
Green Park deepening the dusk.In Woolf's day they
would have been lit by a lamp-lighter who rode up on a
bicycle with a ladder over his arm.He leaned it against
the lamppost, climbed up, turned a valve, and moved on
to the next, and so on, until he suddenly turns off the path
and cuts across the grass, bicycling through the dark.
also walk withina different break of lightthe warmth of it againpouring out across
the street. An amber almost rosesifting through the leavesthat screen a private,
maybe even emptyworld in which we watcha single finger rise and etch
with a fingernailin which a diamond is seta name on the other side of the glass.
We tear ourselvesaway at onceapartwe turnfrom a great weightback
into the crowd in the greater height of anonymity and cold.
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