Selected passages from the diary of P

Tristan Foster



June 2. Yesterday, right on time, winter lingered at the door, but only today did it shoulder in. … I unfolded a sheet of drafting paper and used the palm of my hand to smooth out the fold-lines and creases. With a brown pencil I sketched a chair. Only a chair.


June 3. Wood comes from trees come from soil. Soil comes from stones that for millions of years wind and water buffeted and broke down as tides rose and receded. I unfolded a sheet of drafting paper and ran my palm flat along the fold-lines and creases. I shook a brown pencil loose from the cardboard sleeve of pencils (cardboard comes from trees comes from…) and I drew the outline of a chair. If, by some miracle, a miracle of the Old Testament, this chair was lifted from the page and made real, it would be the edge of the chair alone, as if it was made of wire. The husk of a chair, or less: the vague, noontime dream of a chair. I put the pencil away and scrunched the paper into a ball and realised that, even after all this time, this system of pencils and paper takes me back to the draughty corridors of childhood.


June 5. A death. A death and a death. Everything, at its heart, follows death. … Paper comes from trees come from the earth comes from soil comes from the dead.


June 6. Paper comes from history. From China, Egypt. From the fixed grip of a bald and dry-eyed cadaver. At my desk, I unfolded a single white sheet like ancient, crisp linen. On it, in brown pencil, I sketched a chair. I sketched a chair and, across what, if the chair was, by some miracle, made real, would be the floor it stood on, I sketched the chair’s shadow. I sketched a chair and its shadow as if the sun was low and angling into the room where the chair is — the bright space of an unfurnished kitchen, let’s say. And if the sun was angled into this room and sending a shadow across the room containing this sketched chair now real. With the paper in one hand and a pin in the other, I stomped through my home in search of somewhere to hang this.


June 9. Writing is hard. I write this while under the thick weight of a blanket. I wish the faux fireplace was real and I could pile it with logs. I wish I had the problem of firewood, of running out of firewood and being forced outside into the crisp darkness to traipse around the yard for fresh wood. When I bought this diary the covers were blank-sky blue. Made of thick cardboard, but flawless. Now, today, the cover is scratched, marked, stained. It has acquired the grain — the wrinkles — of use and of age. I unfolded a sheet of drafting paper and flattened it on the desk. I, with a brown pencil, drew a chair as elaborate and sumptuous as the manor house in which you are likely to find such a chair. A chair that requires perfect lawns and is the place that top-hatted, round men set off from on shooting parties. With good humour and shotguns snapped open over their shoulders. The lines of the chair ran onto the desk; soon, the tip of the pencil snapped. I folded the sheet of drafting paper back up. Later, a breeze edged it off the desk, onto the floor.


June 10. Paper comes from wood cast-offs comes from plant fibres comes from photosynthesis comes from the sun comes from the dust of stars. I pinched my nose; my fingers smelt of soap.


June 16. Early morning dream in which I was in line to receive communion (it’s been years since I was in a church, let alone took communion — so many years, in fact, that I wonder if I ever did it beyond childhood). When I stood before the priest, he said Body of Christ and pressed into my palm a wafer the size and texture of a prawn cracker. I stepped to the side and while facing the Jesus (I almost wrote Judas) hanging crucified from the church’s smooth ceiling, put it in my mouth. It crunched loudly in the quiet church and I knew people were staring. I woke up. … I avoided the chair again — and thoughts of the chair; of its legs, its back, its hard seat — by doing domestic work I’d been neglecting. Washing, cleaning, dusting. The dust of old stars. I repotted some plants on the back deck, kneeling, a scarf around my neck: the last fruit the tomato plant gave I had left to rot and then, as if overnight, there was a burst of knotted seedlings around the dead plant. I watched a single wasp land on a winter-reddened blueberry leaf and circle around before lifting off. These tasks turned out to be soothing, energising. Where does the mind go at these times? I can’t even begin to guess.


June 17. I pulled open the blinds and as the morning winter sun was spread across the kitchen floor I unfolded a piece of drafting paper. I ran my palm along the creases and fold-lines so that it was flat against the table. Flat against the table like the sunlight was flat against the floor. I took out a brown pencil, sharpened it, collecting the sharpenings, fragile like dead moths, into a small pile, and I drew a chair. I drew a chair and a shadow of a chair, choosing the angle according to the rays of the sun. I rubbed the pencil over the chair and the shadow of the chair. Then something happened. Soon the chair and shadow were one. The drawing of the chair was now a monstrous creation. The chair and its shadow now ugly and nightmarish, a streak, a stain — not a chair at all. Soon I put the pencil down and scrunched the piece of paper in my hands.


June 20. My home is chair-less. … I unfolded a sheet of drafting paper and smoothed out the fold lines and smoothed out the fold lines. The devil invented the chair.


July 9. It came to me in a quiet moment: my childhood chair, stout, solid, each segment painted in a different colour. The bright colours of a clown. But I remembered it upturned, so that it was less a chair than another toy: a house for dolls, an island for monsters, a chapel for ghosts. I recalled the site of this play: in the shadows under a table — under, yes, another chair — in the living room of my childhood home, by the room’s wide window. But then as the day closed in, this play had to end and the toys had to be cleared; the table would be used, maybe, by adults in the practical way that adults use things — for dinner or for a conversation and wine. I remembered crawling out of the shadows of the table into the sunlight blazing through the window, the dusty afternoon so bright it was about to split into epiphany.


Tristan Foster is a writer from Sydney, Australia. He has had writing published in Music & Literature, Gorse, Words Without Borders, SAND, The Black Sun Lit and elsewhere. He is an editor at 3:AM Magazine.