A cascade of grey ash looks as though it’s edging ever so slightly towards you clay is beneath and in between your toes you’ve a bottle of bleak liquid laced with cadmium burning you can’t reach the end and gold rush from the mountain’s effluent you’re besieged by pine and evergreen hot sticky gum seeps from great gashes in the bark that you’re climbing with your bare feet. Insects are gnawing at your flesh as you pounce back to the floor and the soil heaves garnets are hidden beneath the surface you feel their crystals pricking the soles of your feet and the effects of creeping juice on the forest’s petals and plants you have never again but too much after effect your mind is a blown picture of bright light. In essence your whole body swings around and you’re suspended looking down on the mountain of blue ash there you see and perceive by water only a ripple displaced by slick fires at night and beads in the hand chewing leaves and grasses you’re enabled to stand and reach up to grasp voices that hover briefly above you and then carried away on the backs of some swift flying insects abound and bitten there’s a deep odour of flesh and retention you catch sight of the ochre silo a stitching and fermenting a hoarding of greenery a flow of redemption.
Now you’re standing in a clearing. Your arm is outstretched with the palm upturned, fleshy and soft. You hold it still.
The man’s words had been on her mind. When the poet first heard the man say those words, she had assumed that he meant that there’s something frivolous about poetry, it’s lacking in the seriousness necessary to say anything at all after something so horrific has happened; it would be ‘making light of things’ because poetry’s not thought of as a realistic thing, it doesn’t belong in the sphere of real life. But a dull chill crept upon her when she considered the possibility that what the man actually meant was that the opposite is true, that poetry is all too much a part of real life and had been part of the culture and the conditions in which those unspeakable things happened. Perhaps that’s not what he meant, but all the same when the poet thought about it in that way she had the fleeting urge to abandon even her own little activities. As if giving up on poetry altogether was the only way to avoid implicating herself.
The birds have stopped singing in the clearing; all is still, except for one sound that you can hear. Your mouth is moving and you realise that you have been speaking out loud, rapidly, how long have you been speaking for? You’re aware of your own amplified sounds, but you’re not even listening to the meaning of what you’re saying, the form of the words doesn’t, what? What doesn’t the form of the words do? Anyway, you’re just aware of how dry your mouth is; you can hear the click of thick saliva as your tongue breaks the seal with the roof of your mouth. There’s the swallowing of spit, the licking of lips and now that you’re thinking about it, now that you’re concentrating on this speaking that you’re doing, it becomes apparent that it’s an effort to speak, to force out the breath. You’re squeezing the words out of your lungs slowly, bit by bit. You stop for a minute to exhale fully and listen.
I read sentences that start with ‘we should’ a lot and I wonder about the ‘we’. Who is this we? We, you who are reading, and I who is writing. I feel your presence, I imagine that I could extend my hand towards you to touch your face. It’s as if our bodies are really there. I imagine that I can feel you reaching towards me with your hands, your fingertips patter lightly on my skin and I can feel you touching me all over, little taps and strokes, you feel like light rain falling all over my body. Can I say that we, me and you, reader, are a we? We two, we three, we the people, we readers, we writers, we with an open outlook, we with conservative values, we the trembling in fear, we who are inclined to read this kind of thing, we trailblazers and naysayers and poets and nimbys, we the regretful, we the frail and the meek
I remember myself now, I said to you recently that I thought that art had suckered me into feeling comfortable with the idea that there’s no such thing as truth. And now I have the feeling that, what shall I say here? Is it that appearance is everything, online, in their speeches, whatever, there’s almost, it’s been said a million times, we’ve almost lost sight of the fact…the fact… that there are many things…the thing is that accurate descriptions might be difficult, observations are fallible…you will be biased in every case, but what I mean is, and it’s been said already, the thing is, what I want to say is…the truth hasn’t just gone away. It’s more about not mistaking thoughts for facts or putting opinions on… the same footing, maybe ideas and stories and opinions and things that are made with language have taken on a physical reality, they are a weight pressing down upon you. But then of course opinions and ideas do effect people’s bodies; what gets said, what’s repeated and what’s promoted, these things effect the flesh of human beings.
Now there’s also something else about trying to bear witness to things and standing back instead of immediately jumping in with opinions and ideas. You want to just hold still and take in everything that’s going on around you, to attempt to grasp all of this complexity that would be a start wouldn’t it? But there’s also a nagging feeling of conflict; wanting to bear witness and to not make judgements, but also a sense of urgency or a need for action. And maybe it even feels irresponsible to just observe or focus on the details of things.
Aching and flat your faces in silvery shimmer with golden curtains which gently struggle in the heat and this space closed to entropy. Your unknown gradient between very quiet and more complex shifting and moving like splinters of grace between your lips outside denying you spoke the words that were all about feeling and nothing about a matter of fact. I said I found that more understandable than trying to argue on logic and reason something that holds on to its secrets with only physiology its just the effects of adrenaline you feel your pulse quicken and your temperature rises but you look around you and decide that what you actually feel, is faith. It’s not possible to tell the difference now or at some point in the future you may come to regard it all as if you had known all along that none of this was what you really thought. It makes you shaky. You have an impulse to speak in a way that’s undisciplined, primitive, unfinished; but also, at the same time, you wish to find your own clarity.
And it’s at this point that you enter into a wonderful dream. In the dream, you’re made of pure meaning and your own meaning is crystal clear to you. Your thoughts come to you unhindered and all your doubts, your prejudices, your compromises, your corruption and fear, it all drops away. You’re able to say exactly what you see and call it what it is and you’re sure of your own place within it all. Your speaking causes no harm to anyone. You catch yourself shouting and laughing with everyone else, overjoyed to be able to think and speak with such lucidity. Your thoughts crystallise. You speak in short sentences. Your thoughts are glinting steel, hard but not brittle. They’re new, full of energy. Your thoughts are impervious to corruption and outside influences, neither are they perverted by your own timidity and fear. You are alive to everything, your senses haven’t been dulled or tarnished. You are steely and fresh in your liberation and you can see it clearly and grasp it in a few words, and furthermore, all this speaking does nothing to diminish you, or the others around you, you have momentarily found some vitality that refuses to be sullied.
You have to get away from these overblown ideas. Just focus on the detail. You have to focus on the concrete. That’s the way to deal with it you see. Just focus on the real. The what actually exists. Don’t get lost in abstractions. Writing was about paying attention to something. Writing everything that you could see or hear exactly as it happened. But the key was not to make judgements, just to write what you saw. How can you observe more closely? How can you pay attention? You can search out physical things that you have little doubt about; the exact position of a blade of grass, its relationship to a small fragment of rotten wood; and you don’t need to judge these things; you believe their meaning is not a question. But when you think about it further, even these tiny things contain huge complexity which you can’t witness directly, and the grass in particular, you think about the grass; what particular combination of things does it need to survive? And you imagine the minute silent processes occurring within its tender stalks.
At this point you look more closely at the forest floor. There’s a tiny mushroom the size of a little finger nail. It’s pale brown and looks like it’s covered in a thin layer of moisture, it’s slightly shiny. The mushroom is flat and circular, the edges look to be very slightly serrated. It has a dark circular spot in the centre. The mushroom’s long stem is very thin and crooked, it almost looks too thin to hold the weight of the mushroom, small though it is. There’s another object near to the mushroom; a fragment of dead wood. The fragment has fallen and become enmeshed in several long, thin, but sturdy, blades of grass. The grass is bent over, and criss-crosses beneath the fragment to hold it suspended, motionless, an inch or so above the ground.
Standing in the forest, you feel something hard and rubbery creep up beside your skin. So it has returned. It motions to you and you understand. You abruptly turn your reveries towards it, it seems to have an entirely different quality to the damp debris you’ve observed lying on the forest floor. Something digital; a mineral, synthetic feel. A bulbous body of encoded information it feels like it’s cascading, sludgy, amorphous. You’re under siege with its complexity and volume of words and stories and every time you read something, you’re paralysed with doubt; who’s writing and speaking, on behalf of whom, who’s behind it all? Somehow its variations come to you evenly distributed, to give the impression, although the content is slightly different, that it’s evenly mixed. The feeling of this constant transmission is cloudy, silky but also solid and smooth, like a wall of thick cream. The impression from your point of view is one of continuity, of deluge, but you’re also aware, when you think about it, that the beast is not shapeless, it has a form; from your perspective it may look smooth and evenly blended, but in reality it is highly distinctive in shape; it is not in fact one huge blob from whose smooth surface you feed. Instead, it is a sophisticated shape with complex funnels and channels. One group of living things is at the end of one funnel and at the end of another, a different group, and so on. And as you’re sucking on one big tender teat of proclamations and polemic, notions, infographics and theories, you realise that you’re not just sucking on it but you’re also sort of squirting yourself into it, your speaking has become spitting and in some obscene transaction you’re both sucking and spitting at once, as you pump your own words into this creamy, many-limbed body.
At that time you wanted layers and ambiguity and nothing to be as it seems because you thought that this would usher in possibility, but now layers are all you have and some faceless force that’s disguised itself as something that it’s not. Your sense of identity breaks down and you wonder how much you can trust your own ideas about what is good and just. We’re so vulnerable to manipulations of mind aren’t we? Do you get that sour feeling that your own ideas were somehow part of the problem?
I try to avoid longing. If longing is the looking back, the turning to before, it acknowledges that there’s something of the same order up ahead. Desire is more than that, it’s something from inside the gut, or the arteries. It’s a facing to the front, and to the back and all around. And with desire the future is both up ahead and gone before, opening out and unfurling to let the unknown rush in. You have a powerful need to see and hear and think and feel all at once, without prejudice, without concern for a form. Your body sprouts with multiple minds that are completely clear, open and unafraid to push out into everything that you come into contact with. It uses its time for meaning and feeling and thinking. Your body asks nothing of no-one but is shared by all; the one thing that is equivalent is breath, the body’s one breath. Unafraid of the livid unnamed your desiring body drifts, it mixes and mingles with the worst of things. It rises to sweep and swell, washing itself in horrors and humiliation and it stretches itself to accommodate the limits of what you can bear. Your body’s thunderous waves of blood and flesh laugh at the voices whispering say something/say nothing, say something/say nothing, say something/say nothing, say something/say nothing, say something/say nothing. Your desiring body now burns all your possessions, the hut you built, the business you started, the book you published, the pigs you reared and everything that you’ve worked for is laid to waste in its path. As it clears the deck it tramples gleefully on your assumptions about what other people are thinking and its glory is in its smallness and matter-ness and in its doing nothing and being everywhere and holding still and waiting and introspecting and staring unafraid in the face of confusion and fakery and knowing you’re being lied to and you’re scared and you don’t know what’s really going on and you don’t want to be the one to decide and still its holding its nerve in stillness and glittering quiet and thinking and being and thinking and being and thinking and being.