Dukla (Polish Literature) by Andrzej Stasiuk
Andrzej Stasiuk writes:
It's Sunday and people are still asleep, that's why this story ought to lack a plot, because no one thing can cover up other things, when we're headed toward nothingness, toward the realization that the world is merely a momentary obstacle in the free passage of light.
So I decided to try and find the house that R. and I had discovered when we were here in the summer. At that time dusk had been falling. We walked down Cergowska, turned into Podwale, then into Zielona. It was an inconspicuous cottage of blackened wood. It stood at the far end of an untended yard. A yellow light shone in the window. Five minutes later and everything would have been completely dark, but the remains of daylight allowed us to take a look at this yard or lot. It was laid out in a truly curious order. Scraps, pieces, and torn lengths of rusty sheet metal had been arranged in a tidy geometrical pile. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to organize the misshapen pieces into an almost perfect cuboid. Everywhere, rocks, rubble, and brick fragments lay in a pyramidal prism smoothed into an exact cone. Shards and pebbles had been stuck in the crevices between the larger pieces as precisely as a mason would have done. Whole and half bricks had been ordered in a neat hexagonal stack. In another place, leftover roofing paper and plastic sheeting had been gathered together, rolled up and aligned according to type and size. The tubes and rolls had been placed so neatly upon one another in a tapering pile that on the top there was one roll crowning the whole. Wood too had been sorted according to size and shape. Rotten planks in one place, short lengths of thick beams elsewhere in a cubic mound, like building blocks. Next to them lay scrap iron. A snarl of rusted shapes had been disentangled. To one side pipes, rods, rails, channel bars, in other words long thin objects; to another small irregular polyhedrons, old bicycle parts, kitchen fittings, tin cans, and God knows what else. These items, whose shape prevented them from matching one another, had been tipped together to form a rounded semicircle heap, care being taken to make sure nothing jutted out to spoil the relatively even outline. Beneath the overhang of a shed built of sawmill offcuts, glass had been collected. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of bottles had been stacked on one another to form a wall of glass, necks toward the shed, bottoms facing out. Here too a rudimentary order had been maintained. Green, brown and clear glass were each kept together, in addition to which the bottles had been grouped according to size and shape: flat ones were separate from round ones, while half-liter bottles were not mixed with quarter liters, or with one-liter cola or orangeade bottles. The scheme was exceedingly complex, since three colors and multiple shapes give a dizzying number of possible combinations. Then there were jars, also sorted according to their dimensions. A little father still was an old tree with spreading branches, from which there hung loops of string, coils of electric cord, small and large lengths, and snippets, tied together, fastened tight, solid, dangling like horses’ tails. There were also stuffed plastic bags, over a dozen colored sacks filled with who knew what, but certainly something light, because they swung in the breeze. It looked like the creation of the world. A path had been trodden through the heaps of trash. It looked as if the creator of this order strolled around his work, admiring it, straightening it up from time to time.
We went toward the ruins of the synagogue. Birch saplings had taken root in the top of a wall several feet above the ground. We could hear the rustle of young leaves. At this point R. said he really liked the place we’d seen, that the person in that wretched old shack, the worst house on a whole street of big, expensive, ugly houses, that that person was just trying to give meaning to his world, and that was fine, he wasn’t trying to change it, just put it in order a little, the way you organize your thoughts, and often that’s enough to stop you from going mad. That was what R. said, so I gave up on the idea of creation, because it seemed like R. was right.
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