Can Europe Make It?

Street Opera III: Interiors, sponges on the slope

Part three in a phantasmagoric journey for regular readers of Splinters.

Iain Galbraith
13 June 2021, 1.08pm
'Sponges may be the common ancestor of all animals, including humans.' The freshwater sponge Spongilla lacustris
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Wikicommons/ Kirt L.Onthank. Some rights reserved.

Two greenish-yellow sponges waiting near the edge of the grey tarpaulin, that is, on the slope caused by the uneven structure of whatever lies beneath. The slope is closer now than it looked before, and more demanding than when the sponges were not yet there. I mean, from here the slope is higher and steeper than when I was standing up and looking down at the grey tarpaulin from above, the two sponges still in my hands.

A tarpaulin without sponges probably attracts less attention than a grey tarpaulin with two yellowy-green sponges, which are wet now and possibly, more slowly than the eye can see, slipping down the slope. My intention should be to remove the sponges, thereby returning the tarpaulin and whatever lies beneath it to a before-time that includes me while at the same time making all parties invisible, including myself.

These are two brand new, previously unused sponges. Their holes are connected to all holes everywhere, and are older than human error. It is not my part to concern myself with whatever is beneath the tarpaulin. My task concerns the visible surface only. I have thought this through as far as it goes. It is a curse. Whatever happens here must always happen at the edge of the grey and white, or to be more precise, at a distance, longer or shorter, from the white border that hems in the grey part of the tarpaulin.

What is happening under the tarpaulin is a matter that does not concern me, or at least not on Wednesdays. Sometimes I do think of it when I am not here, standing outside in the street, or in the shop, or talking to one of the men at the corner. In the street they are always digging holes and the men stand around and watch. Whether I really needed two sponges today I can't yet tell. I put the two sponges down on the slope to wait there till after I had wiped a string of dry, grey-white spots from the dark timber floorboards along the front of the white tarpaulin edge. I suppose they came from a spilling – milk for instance, or semen. Or something splashed from inside?

What are the sponges waiting for now? If I picked up the sponges, removing them from the surface, could I put an end to this? I wish I had thought of this problem before I left the sponges on the tarpaulin. If I could only return to there, things would certainly look more promising. In the first place the sponges are waiting for the cleaned surface to dry, now that the white spots have vanished. In the second they are waiting for me waiting to remove the sponges from the slope in the hope that this will end.

I would certainly be willing to introduce any changes before the owners returned. I do not want sharpnesses from outside to pierce this space and make these difficulties more visible than the pictures will make them. All actions are always already visible. Thoughts not entirely. My task, as I keep telling myself, is go back and return things to the now-point before the sponges were introduced.

It is light on the unevenness of the shiny surface that could attract somebody's attention. I could put the light off and draw the blinds. Anybody could be here and do this but there is nobody else who can do it now. I know there is the watcher and the watched. The owner will soon return. I must go out and sell something now.

This article was originally published in the June edition of Splinters.

Empower and protect, don’t prohibit: a better approach to child work

Bans on child labour don’t work because they ignore why children work in the first place. That is why the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour will fail.

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