convergences Screen 47 | Alternate Endings

 from James Cleveley: Death of Cook. Click

Samwell will write accounts of Cook's death
and the introduction of venereal disease
into the Sandwich Islands. As a surgeon
in the Royal Navy, he will gain a reputation
for his verse in English and Welsh, and emerge
as the verbose, guilt-ridden, opium-eating
anti-hero of Ian Rowlands' play, Pacific.
James Burney will never be as famous
as his sister, Fanny, though he will become
a British rear admiral, the brother-in-law
of Molesworth Phillips, who will spend
the rest of his life as a retired colonel,
building model ships in bottles, telling
tales of his adventurous days with Cook,
drinking quantities of rum, quarrelling
with his wife. He will outlive everyone
on the voyage except Billy Griffin,
who will live on for another sixty-one
years as a London cooper and overseer
of Watford Parish. Known to be a relilgious
man in his later years, Griffin will leave
some trinkets for his son, items collected
on the North West Coast of America
when he was just a lad on Cook's ship.
Them, and me, and you ---the gaps between us, the intervals. That is the elusive subject of my unrelieved preoccupation. I think of a wave moving across an ocean. I note the horizontal movement of the wave and the vertical movement of the water. The wave is life as it travels across time. It hits them first. It bears them up into the clamorous circumstance of consciousness, of vitality, of actuality, before it returns them to the condition that prevails after life has passed them by. The wave hits me, carrying its flotsam of testimony from them, which I use in my time before I too settle back into what you think of as the past, as the wave moves on and, by some improbable sequence of pitches and twists, its crest carries this text towards you as you rise up in your own brief and luminous moments of being. You know all this, of course. But I am thinking about those other waves that ripple through the cosmos, those that precede and follow this one that we know.


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