Monthly Archives: November 2008

Conduit

My room is scattered with empty cans. Fragments of conduit. Each one is a segment of a pipeline that I am building, to tap and channel the subterranean currents beneath the pavements. I take my part from the current; part is expelled as breath, thought, writing, sex — clouds of alcohol breath and smoke — the remainder pours back into the subterranean rivers, through porcelain, then earthenware, finally into brick-lined catacombs. The city is an economy of liquids. Talk drips, describes liquidation of capital, flows of traffic and people, of capital crystallised into buildings tapping other credit streams. The cornucopia is filled, not with fruit, but the decayed ferment of it.

Liquid reflects; this is how we recognise ourselves in it, gazing back at us. The recognition acknowledges that we can see ourselves where we are not, but this is not what is recognised. It shows us that there is a place within us, too, where we are not.

robin_bile

Common speech

– such as you’ve heard before, spoken before, dreamt of: a [ ] of voices, the rush of tone, things fall by the wayside, an afterthought precedes, a form of dyslexia, it happens more often at the extremes of the day, upon waking, or now, later, it’s too late, perhaps, to form a coherent line, tangles, then, one of many, like the waves, the hesitation, there, drawing back before the pulse, then, the tug of it, flow, the way things even out. Similar books are added to the pile of those unread, unbearable silence, silences, borne in common, contradictions, joyous, terrible, the thread spools, ravels a line, one ravels lines together or ravels them apart; if not splitting, then, certainly slipping, a loose thread pools into the curve of one’s hand, & the texture of it & the color of it, reminding you of something else again, entirely, and you drift off on a digression, for a moment, because you are happy, then reeling off like an idiot or a fool, whatever the right word is: earnest and without apology, I would like to take a stand.

Red Thread(s)

Imagination

He woke up, started drinking and sometime later went to bed having done something embarrassing. That was his life. They said he was spiritually broke; they told him to experiment with optimism. Was that some kind of joke? He replaced them with figures from his imagination and gave them all different names. Then he realised he could do the same with himself, change himself.

Seeing the god

There was a people who had a good understanding of the divine; this people believed that to see the god is death. —Who grasps the contradiction of this sorrow: not to disclose itself is the death of love; to disclose itself is the death of the beloved.

– Kierkegaard

Nothing can begin unless you experience your idiocy

Above all, W. says, I should work earnestly on another book. It’s the only way I experience my own inadequacy, he says. He knows me: without some project, I’ll become far too content. My idiocy will become an alibi, an excuse — which is precisely a way to avoid it altogether. You have to run up against your idiocy, to plunge into it, W. says. Nothing can begin unless you experience your idiocy.

Spurious

Voice

It’s your own and some other’s, you and not you, babbling on day and night in a lunatic monologue. A man muttering in a room, a man and his skull, a man in his skull, a man carrying around his skull, babbling on. Repeat, cease, start, forget, remember, circle, abandon, stop, continue. Prodded into speech, prodded and prodder. Sometimes it seems it could go on without you, a babble with a voice of its own, warring with its own words.

Small objects of pain

God knows where words go.
Dust to dust.
The poet loves and distrusts them.
Someone must.

Trust no one, least of all yourself. Least of all your own best beloved blather, those sentiments and instincts that seem to elevate you into one of life’s nobler specimens, that render you a Mensch, a judge of character, a person who, according to your secret internal PR, is someone to be trusted. If you must trust in something, trust in distrust, or at least listen to it sometimes. As they say: Just listen to yourself! At least have the decency to be just a little disgusted with yourself.

Can you hear the shakiness of those words, those little drops of sound as they fall, those traces of black and white certainty as they imprint themselves across the page? Something — a shadow, as Eliot would have it — intervenes between, what shall we call it? Idea and reality? Motion and act? Conception and creation? What do you read, my lord? Words, words, words.

They really are terrible things: small objects of pain, strange myopic blurs that suddenly rush together to form an avalanche tumbling from one or other Mount Sinai. Tablets of cant. Here, take one. If it doesn’t cure you at least you can flatten yourself with it. See how treacherous they are, these mixed metaphors, these puns?

George Szirtes

Narcissus and Goldmund

When his solitary and social selves came up against each other he felt as if two people were battling it out inside him. Like Narcissus and Goldmund, they had completely different agendas. One was quiet, the other brash. One hung sheepishly around the temples, the other was busy ripping down walls. Goldmund was ready to tear Narcissus apart, just as he took pleasure in tearing other people apart. But Narcissus could be at least as destructive with his soft guilty voice. The war raged until his defences collapsed and the two stood looking around, silent and confused.

Start again

There was no such thing as consistency, life would always end up holding your ideas up to ridicule. That’s what life did, ridiculed your ideas and forced you to look at yourself until nothing remained. Eventually he had nothing left to hunt, nothing to grasp for or look down on. It was beautiful, it couldn’t get any worse! A voice told him to own up and start again in an empty place, then start over again.

The Curse

They could not rush into it then and there. They weren’t safe from intrusion. Not only that, children have a highly developed sense of ritual and formality. This was important. They had to decide whether they were in love. Because if there was one thing the pictures showed, you had to be in love. They thought they were but they would give themselves a week just to make sure.
   They hugged again in what they thought would be among their last fully clothed embraces.
   How can Breavman have regrets? It was Nature herself who intervened.
   Three days before Thursday, maid’s day off, they met in their special place, the bench beside the pond in the park. Lisa was shy but determined to be straight and honest, as was her nature.
   ‘I can’t do it with you.’
   ‘Aren’t your parents going away?’
   ‘It’s not that. Last night I got the Curse.’
   She touched his hand with pride.
   ‘OK.’
   ‘Know what I mean?’
   ‘Sure.’
   He hadn’t the remotest idea.
   ‘But it would still be OK, wouldn’t it?’
   ‘But now I can have babies. Mummy told me about everything last night. She had it all ready for me, too, napkins, a belt of my own, everything.’
   ‘No guff?’
   What was she talking about? The Curse sounded like a celestial intrusion on his pleasure.
   ‘She told me about all the stuff, just like the camera.’
   ‘Did you tell her about the camera?’
   Nothing, the world, nobody could be trusted.
   ‘She promised not to tell anyone.’
   ‘It was a secret.’
   ‘Don’t be sad. We had a long talk. I told her about us, too. You see, I’ve got to act like a lady now. Girls have to act older than boys.’
   ‘Who’s sad?’
   She leaned back in the bench and took his hand.
   ‘But aren’t you happy for me?’ she laughed, ‘that I got the Curse? I have it right now!’

– Leonard Cohen, The Favourite Game