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32 The Footprint

hexagram-32-footprint‘THERE ARE TWO extremes: the fresh print and the fossilised print; detection and
preservation. Most of us escape both.’

Students stand in flour and then step aside onto paper. Meanwhile, the
lecturer expounds one of the niceties of sleuthing: the marks of other
non-living items (not just shoes). ‘Think of bicycle tracks, or even a
dinosaur’s tail.’ ‘Correction, sir!’ shouts one of the trainee detectives. ‘It’s
now believed that dinosaurs leaned forwards with their tails in the air.’

1st – Footprints Underground
Touchdown, weight-lifting, kick-off: repeated millions of times. A few
hundred bones are more elusive. A circle suggests a feast. A track may be
a migration route or a shoreline. In the middle of a compact brontosaur
herd are smaller prints, of youngsters protected by bulls or senior cows.

2nd – The Evidential Footprint
New studies flourish after the crime – history of chevroned sole or wavy
heel, variations of a brand. Wet clay reveals not a limp but a slight list
leftwards, a satchel carrier: schoolboy or courier. A round hole in the heel
seems to implicate the former: is there a missing compass in the nettles?

3rd – Footprints on Water
Like improbable caring sex with a lonely neighbour recently widowed
(if the children cried, you’d hear them through the wall), it’s little more
than the daytime trace of a dream. If you only half-believe, or even threequarters,
that’s far too little to walk dry-eyed through your vale of tears.

4th – The Yeti’s Footprints
A shaggy man-beast pulls at dwarf rhododendrons. A male won’t chase
you uphill: its prominent forehead will make you invisible. A female will
trip on her pendulous dugs. Strangely, snow tracks go from canine to
humanoid out of the shadows: sunlight turns wolf to yeti, werewolf-like.

5th – Friday’s Footprint
We’re taken to the level of the neuron, exploring the response of brain
cells to social events. The tropical beach is stamped by a rubber foot on a
long pole – much hilarity. Off camera, the subject swarms in unfilmable
complexity. Crusoe is in character, the professor in goat’s clothing.

6th – The Contested Footprints
Dozens of amateur authors must have written the same thing. ‘Where
two tracks in the desert become one, it isn’t that you’re alone: the Lord
has started carrying you.’ An irresistible image reproduces as a meme, in a
storm of writs and polygraph sheets, as if scribbled by a hand in a cloud.

All six – The Bejewelled Footprint
Every time he steps on you, his tread leaves a footprint of jewels on your
skin. Although he’s as heavy as an elephant, this footfall feels like a feather,
with a lesson for the ponderous heart: the weight of the world and its
sorrows remains so hard for us all to bear, even with tragedy lifted.

Introduction to Six-Way Mirror | The Index of Hexagrams and Cantos


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