Mira Mattar: Perhaps a finch, a finch perhaps

Its head is ordinary. Its head is inquisitive. Its head is ordinary and inquisitive. Its head is ordinary but inquisitive. It is a head that is ordinary and inquisitive. It is a head that is ordinary but inquisitive. Can what is ordinary not also be inquisitive? Ordinariness does not preclude inquisitiveness. It is ordinary because it is brown. It is inquisitive because it has a beak. These statements are not facts.

In nature, or at least what I can see from here, brown is an ordinary colour. It does not stand out because it comprises the base of many other things. It stands in, or down. It surrenders. Earth trunk bark mud stone shit leaf twig. Things grow on it. It does not grow on things. This statement is inaccurate.

Brown is why I am calling it ordinary. It seems as though ordinary means, at least to some degree, common, often occurring. Ordinary can be noble and interesting though interest is more interesting than nobility. I am suspicious and (therefore?) critical of my soft spot for nobility. I am suspicious and (therefore?) critical of soft spots in general – though it is terrible to be general. I am slightly less suspicious of being general than having soft spots. I would rather be highfaluting than noble. I would rather be precise than general. I fail to be how I want to be. This is common. (But it does not help). Yet, it interests me because it is a common colour and (therefore?) a vital one. Without it…?

That settled, we turn to the inquisitive beak. Is this a prejudice? A romantic notion? A random personal observation? Dumb imagination? To me the beak points, interrupts, insists with violence. It picks, it is specific: that worm! that worm! This is not a matter of inquisitiveness. I doubt it is inquisitive. The beak is a simple, effective tool. It has no ulterior motive. It is not trying to get questions answered or solve mysteries or crimes.

It is not because of either of these things that I look at it, that it has caught my attention.

I never understood what my mother meant when she stopped smoking and felt like she had lost a friend. It was while I was understanding this that I noticed it. It was its movement that interested me, that caught my attention.

Nothing was special about its movement.

This depends on what special means in the sentence, and/or in the world. For now, for this instance at least, it means: differing from expectation, differing from its own usual, deviating from internal logic or nature i.e. predictable courses of action. This statement is inaccurate.

A finch hops. This is to be expected. This finch was no different: it hopped. It was not singing with a human voice (special), it was not wild colours (special), it was not juggling knives (special), it was not telling jokes (special). Would all the things which make it special also make it not itself but something else entirely? People could come along and say: hey, that’s not like itself, it must be another thing. They would call it something else and add it to the books. Its definition would not expand, break and revolt, there would simply be another definition, a slight variation, breeding infinities of pointless definitions disguised as new information. Either way, there it was. The finch was a finch (though I may be wrong about the breed). But: the finch was a finch. I located it. It has nothing to do with me.

I located it, disguised among the branches. I followed its hops, attempting to tether thoughts to it, wishing for them to jump as logically from one to another with direction (if that is what the finch has), hoping through mimesis for them to find or make an easy logic of their own. Unhappily they could not, though my eyes still followed. Instead they (the thoughts, not my eyes or the finch) continued to struggle for sense or even to find pride or power in their lack of sense, their non-sense. But I eye pride with the same narrow-eyed suspicion as I eye nobility, generality, specialness, ordinariness, inquisitiveness, power and sense. Still, tempting. (Another word that narrows the eyes).

The action of looking or perceiving (the or does not designate interchangeablity but difference) or trying to pay attention instead reveals nothing but thought’s own structure, or attempts at structure, which in this case is a lack of one i.e. I am distracted. This is common. (But it does not help). So that’s something, if we’re in the business of salvaging somethings. Can’t thoughts be stitched to a finch and like it hop with logic? I do not know and doubt entirely if the finch (that may not be a finch) is thinking or planning its small hops with the surity of my neighbour drawing his blinds and standing there at his window with a mug, sure of his life, his species, his movements, his limbs which swing and co-operate.

What does distraction distract from? In distraction what is revealed?

Is it the terror of no love, no home, no sense? Is it the terror of always having to go to work soon? Is it the terror of creative nonfiction? Yet when neither attention nor perception can be or are being paid i.e. in distraction, both attention and perception occur. This is sometimes useful. If watching a finch that may not be a finch is like writing it may be because writing can be a process of mediating between distraction and attention where both are red herrings and both are not red herrings and at the same time both are perhaps brown finches.


Mira Mattar is a writer, contributing editor at Mute and 3:AM, and one third of Monster Emporium Press. Her fiction has been published in Two Serious Ladies, PANK, Metazen and other places. She lives in south east London. She blogs here.