How short

Kafka, of a woman (I don't know where): how short must be life, if something so fragile can last a lifetime. But sentimental! Kafka’s words betray a watcher’s remoteness, for women’s bones are strong; women of beauty are still flesh, as you are when you stub your toe, or knock your head on a shelf. You would not want to touch a thing that would shatter or dissolve in your hand. I see there’s romance in what’s ethereal — fairies and such. That women are girlish and frail and we ought to protect them (or that we must). Under their burkhas and chastely enticing veils these women aren’t pixies — airy features strung with beads of light together — and I’m not the awed rustic, on the streets of Oxford seeing the travel of light in covers; these are people, part-animal, bent like men to make superior versions of themselves (ones better at making more and more versions), in that way perhaps machinelike, but on the human scale of no graver fragility than lean and short men. Yes the word angel is beautiful but I have always hated its use in simile because how do they write or sing? Like Shakespeare and, what, a choir? Not priests, not enraptured, nobody knows: they’re imagined beings, unconcrete, without flesh. Women aren’t fleshlessly angels, they have solid nerve and muscle, it’s why they live out meagre allotments. Kafka’s is male sentimentality, a kind of refuge, to see in those desired for their cleavages, their symmetrical faces the angelic; if angels are immortal the angelically dreamlike, no substance — impression all.

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