Black Spring

Free Black Spring by Henry Miller

Book: Black Spring by Henry Miller Read Free Book Online
Authors: Henry Miller
boiling coffee in order to get some nice fresh grounds. The rest of us are drinking.
    In the midst of the festivities-about three A.M.-My wife walks in. She seems a little depressed. Taking me aside she shows me a steamship ticket. I look at it. “What’s that for?” I said. “You’ve got to go away,” she answers. “But I don’t want to go away,” I said. “I’m quite happy here.” “So I see,” she says, rather sardonically.
    Anyway I go. And when we’re pulling up the Thames the only thought in my mind is to see the Turner collection at the Tate Gallery. Finally I get there and I see the famous Turners. And as luck would have it one of the halfwits there takes a fancy to me. I find that he’s a magnificent water-colorist himself. Works entirely by lamplight. I really hated to leave London, he made it so agreeable for me. Anyway, pulling out of Southampton I thought to myself-“the circle is complete now: from the department store window to here.”
    However, to get on… . This gondola is going to be the piece de resistance! But first I must clean up the walls. Taking the bread knife and dipping it into the laque carmine I apply a liberal dose to the windows of the houses. Holy Jesus! Immediately the houses are in flames! If I were really mad, and not simulating the madness of a madman, I’d be putting firemen into the picture and I’d make ladders out of the bold diagonal planks of the bridge flooring. But my insanity takes the form of building a conflagration. I set all the houses on fire-first with carmine, then with vermilion, and finally with a bloody concoction of all three. This part of the picture is clear and decisive: it’s a holocaust.
    The result of my incendiarism is that I’ve singed the horse’s back. Now he’s neither a horse nor a zebra. He’s become a fire-eating dragon. And where the missing tail belonged there is now a bunch of firecrackers, and with a bunch of firecrackers up his ass not even an Ionian horse can preserve his dignity. I could, of course, go on to make a real dragon; but this conversion and patching-up is getting on my nerves. If you start with a horse you ought to keep it a horse-or eliminate it entirely. Once you begin to tamper with an animal’s anatomy you can go through the whole phylogenetic process.
    With a solid opaque green and indigo I blot the horse out. In my mind, to be sure, he’s still there. People may look at this opaque object and think-how strange! how curious! But I know that at bottom it’s a horse. At the bottom of everything there’s some animal: that’s our deepest obsession. When I see human beings squirming up toward the light like wilted sunflowers, I say to myself: “Squirm, you bastards, and pretend all you like, but at bottom you’re a turtle or a guinea-pig.” Greece was mad about horses and if they had had the wisdom to remain half horse instead of playing the Titan-well, we might have been spared a great many mythological pains.
    When you’re an instinctive water-colorist everything happens according to God’s will. Thus, if you are bidden to paint the cemetery gates a clear gamboge, you do it and you don’t grumble about it. Never mind if they are too vivid for such somber portals. Perhaps there is an unknown justification. And truly, when I paint in this bright liquid yellow, this yellow which is to me the finest of all yellows (even yellower than the mouth of the Yangtsze Kiang), I am radiant, radiant. Something dreary, cloying, oppressive has been washed away forever. I would not be surprised if it were the Cypress Hills Cemetery which I passed in disgust and mortification for so many years, which I looked down on from the bend in the elevated line, which I spat into from the platform of the train. Or St. John’s Cemetery, with its crazy leaden angels, where I worked as a gravedigger. Or the Montparnasse Cemetery which in winter looks as if it had been shellshocked. Cemeteries, cemeteries…. By God, I refuse to be

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