The View from My Window | Tom Bouman

No matter where you live, coronavirus has altered daily life. We’ve asked Faber authors to share a snapshot of their lives in lockdown.

In a different time I attended a lecture by Seamus Heaney on translation. His Beowulf had just been published. Here is how he described his different approaches to translation: raids and settlements. Raids were little moments, pieces of verse from here and there, bent to his own purposes: ‘I smashed and grabbed.’ In contrast, Beowulf was a settlement and a commitment.

Up until this year, we were in a world of never-ending raids, roving from one encounter to the next. Then came a tyrant. We don’t want the pandemic; we rebuke it. Yet it has forced settlements.

Here is the view from my window.

My daughter runs a package up from the mailbox. She is home from school for the foreseeable future.

This dirt pile is important to my two-year-old son.

Tromping.

Burdock eradication.

I no longer make raids, except on the burdocks. Oddly, I don’t really feel like I’m moving into the future anymore, and my creative impulses aren’t aimed that way, either. To be directed that way now seems almost silly, like the end of a pole-vaulter’s pole, bouncing on an eternal approach. Instead, I am waylaid by memories: the summer day when we peeled away a thin layer of grass and sod to find a plane of bedrock beneath our yard, and the itchy heat reflecting off of it; the smell of old popcorn in the dusty, three-story discount store where my brother and I got plaid shirts as the school year came on; a box full of Marvel comics from the seventies, discovered in my grandparents’ attic. These everyday lodestars are interesting to me as a writer because there was no thought to attach significance to them at the time. Yet they have stowed away with me through a busy and dissolute young manhood to emerge and demand translation now.

I’m not doing too much these days, just tending to my settlements.

Tom Bouman is the author of The Bramble and the Rose.

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