rick london



Ghost of an Itch


I had been advised not to scratch the itch. Just let it be. Observe. It will become something else. It will sustain a balance with the air and it will become air. I had been advised not to scratch it.



I read the advice in a book. I don’t think the advice was meant to assist in the eradication of desire. I think it was meant to create an opportunity for desire to come into balance with something else that would arise if the advice were heeded.



Even in a case like mine where balance is usually tenuous or missing the exercise is medicinal in sharp doses when the advice is finally accepted when an itch arises somewhere on the upright still body.



For some reason during such a return to stillness the itch most often occurs on or around the nose. Probably because this is where there are creases and slight characteristic hollows where a negligible strand of sweat can collect and create an itching sensation. A constant itching sensation. It can even become intense. I had been advised not to scratch. Although the room was hot and I had determined I wouldn’t be moving – except for leg-stretching intervals and a few hours of sleep at night – for many days, I had been advised not to scratch the itch.



An itch is a living thing. It is a sensation therefore is composed of living tissue. In a nightmare I dreamt of a virulent itch that could swiftly migrate inward and become fatal beginning to form on my shin and then another on my back. I awakened and felt my shin, all the weird phantom sinew and adjacent muscle and prominent bone.



Right now there is an itch at the corner of my right eye. I lie back and listen to the sounds of the night. The itch is as real as all the other things I am aware of and I try to make myself a place for them all as they do for me. Where is the itch in all this, its fugitive place amid this unfettered mutuality? The book advised against entertaining questions of this kind. They are meaningless. Marks on non-existent walls. This advice is somehow related to the advice not to scratch. Maybe the symmetry between them can only be seen from the other side of the itch, which this side needs to become. The book advised against this kind of idle speculation. Not even a little scratch is permitted as no exemptions are mentioned.



Hildegard said to me Rest my foul fair child You’re like a dog gnawing too many bones Nothing can come of this hankering You are welcome here This is a matter of trust My only abiding demand is that you find a way according to your nature to sit in a chair at our well-used table and make yourself at home.



The itch is just inside my right shoulder blade. Why should there be anything else to report of me? Make yourself at home. Be known by what you do - or don’t do or say or dispute. There are things you simply find yourself doing. You have an itch. You’ve never really been anywhere where you’ve felt at home. There are things that need to be said and people appropriate to say them to. Why else would I have been given this advice not to scratch an itch? The advice is living tissue. If you advise someone, be wary, for their sake, ok, but especially for your own. This is not the correct manner for everyone to carry forward in life. You yourself can or cannot live this way. Regardless of outcome, this course of constrained and possibly repentant action trumps anything else you’ve thought to do, which has come to nothing. Pull up a chair and make yourself at home. This is a matter of trust, nothing can come of this, there’s nothing else for someone in your position to do.



You’ve been away for a long time and now something has brought you back. This may be a momentary lapse in your wanderings. You remember the exercise, which is the momentary beginning of a place for you. You scratch an itch into the place you make for it, which is the momentary beginning of a place for you. You have no questions. As the need arises you will report what there is momentarily to report of you. I was advised not to scratch the itch. The body is the unremitting place to practice this exercise, balanced on the air and becoming air, sight, sound, sensation, the momentarily haggard blue figure of Hildegard’s window. The body in some places is an itch. Hearing and sound arising together.



Street sounds, voices, early night sensations














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