Condescension of Revolution – It is so easy when you look at what such an upheaval costs, first, in violent reaction and, then, the counter reaction which tends to follow. But when a political arrangement will not change, has no inbuilt manner through which to change it to make it more democratic – when the tantrums of imperial powers set their unwieldy mass behind autocracy and freely exercise and defend their monopoly on violence – then what else is there left to do? As the gridlock tightens, as reaction tightens, the temptation grows and grows…
And when democratic revolution can be undertaken peacefully, for the most part, the arguments against it are dulled to a whisper.
What am I saying here? I’m saying that there is space for a democratic revolution even in a nominally democratic system, a system which bears traces of democracy already.
The house was on a steep. The sun
was belly button of the sky –
hot head, the red light of my blood
pearled with bright neuronal pearling.
They were shouting, I could hear it
from upstairs. There is so much love
in an exasperated scream.
In a textured chocolate croissant.
Sleep will take me soon and collapse
lose pertinence. After such days,
brimming call-centres of the heat
enrich my dreams. Hello you’re through –
Oh Sam, I know you’ve lost so much
and words are not the kind of thing
that can change our minds – but sometimes
I try to try – you were captain.
Life is a penguin, no life is
penguin egg cracked and just sizzling
on a cast iron pan. Oceans
shifted and took your ship out south.
I was stranded, you said, in cold
and night that lasted months. A light
on my far sailboat caught your eye –
you look up from your fire, and cry
“It feels right to recount the history of Immanuel using ‘we’. But soon in the story, the pronoun starts to break up.”
Immanuel is about two churches: one in Winchester entangled to the other in Lagos. It’s the story of the traces left by those churches in Matthew Mcnaught’s life, and in the lives of his old friends.
While I was reading the book, NASA released the first set of images taken by the James Webb telescope, a set which included this image, entitled Deep Field: SMACS 0723. As they say, it is a long exposure of a patch of sky which is about the size of that covered by a grain of sand when held at arm’s length* from the eye. In it we ‘see the light from’ galaxies which are billions of light years away. That is, we see them in the same way we might see a cloud of dandelion seeds as captured by a smartphone camera, except, because of conceptual changes forced upon us by concrete experience of the world, the act of seeing changes in quality. We are seeing light paths, some of which have been bestowed curves due to the distortions of space around incredibly massive objects, other light paths whose time of origin was consistently 4.6 billion years ago. They bear a constant relation to us of appearing-4.6-billion-years-ago, because they are 4.6 billion light years away from us (though getting further). They remain in the sky, yet we know that many of them have long since dimmed, and maybe died – we are seeing their trace. These are facts of a quality that goes beyond our life. Time and space, tangled together in an Einstein knot, more fiendish than a Gordian knot, because although an emperor could cut the latter, the Einstein knot cannot be cut, even by an empire as powerful as that of the United States.
and history may say alas,
but cannot help nor pardon –
ruins of empires are flowers
in Europe’s garden. Let more fall
’til empire is a lost nightmare
on endless dunes of autumn leaves.
Death-pale warriors and a king –
bearing black stars and stripes, and old –
were sent to quell humanity
wherever it was found – they cried
in joy as kind democrats died
and bestowed themselves red honours…
Now with desolated brains, shout
Vote! to us as we cry – power.
The only response they merit;
tears of sadness as we laugh hate.
All those they murder wait for them
in hell, with visitor’s tickets –
given dispensation to see
lives relived if the roles were swapped
Imperial officers scream
for their fathers as they clock it –
they are to be shot, shortly,
chopped up and put in a barrel.
The death of the author as a movement in cultural production had a performative bite – given that it was concerned with authority, simply to doubt from a position of economic or authorial power undid some of the power of the author. It’s an anarchist position in literary studies.
I sit at the graduation
courtyard outside the function tent
drinking a red velvet latte,
and eating two halved eggs, just think.
I hover over the dry grass
and there was quiet in the shop
where I chose my sandwich. I eat
and others join me in the square
where poetry seems a stand in
for certainty – a red brick wall
a landscape of reds, wires and vines.
It’s the philosophy building.
I take a mint from a blue tin
with 50 mints in. Lunch poem.
It was onion, and cheese – the kind
which has no name. In my podcast
academics speak of poets.
I take another mint. My, my,
so many things call for worry,
don’t they. It puts me on notice
and I press my index fingers
together and against my lips.
All this. Let these celebrations,
I freshen by breath, let them in
“I start digging in this medium, trawling and sifting through the past, without knowing really what to look for” – The Undercurrents
Leeds is a minor European city. It has a history, but that history is only vaguely, partially and sometimes present for me in my daily life here. We have a historical society but no popular or literary histories (or should I say, popular literary histories?) except one – the Hounding of David Oluwale. Its past is minor, imperial, and parallel to other cities whose examples might take its place in general histories of the twentieth century.
Berlin is different. It has been a capital, lost that title, and regained it, been near destroyed and separated, by concrete violence, into two smaller cities, and then re-joined. Like a churned riverbed, it shows several traumatic layers flowing together – its surface scarred. This is the surface through which Kirsty Bell moves. She buys an apartment on the canal, and spends her days of abandonment looking out of the window and seeing the past animate and haunt the view. Her book is a haunted book, about a haunted house. A house that is trying to speak to her through water.
A worried king came to me, lord knows why
to measure his luck against the Philistines.
Strange how an eldritch technique can change
from heresy to dogma for reasons of state –
anyway, for all my murdered sisters I gave
him just enough doubt to put off his aim –
he’ll lay down his sword from anxiety, then
lie down and slide along it, slowly, to rest.
I slaughtered a calf to give precursive thanks
and fed him libation to his own pierced flank.
When the gods ascend from out the earth,
justice sees tyrants come off the worse.
The slogginess and haecceity
of the evening away from you –
trapped in a metre that repeats
while dust mites settle on my face –
make me feel like a half-played game
packed up with cards badly shuffled.
The blueness and depth of the sky –
against the gold of these string lights –
that’s the thing that passes the night.
I send a picture of the sky
through the sky to you in your bed –
it looks inky black, you reply.
//Words encrypt me and decrypt me
depending on the time. Neural
phenomenology in dreams
has a logos before language –
and reveries are chained and flayed
by the stumbling explanation.
I try to describe a rain field
which constitutes a fraught meeting
but it doesn’t quite come across//
I have homework in the morning
but for now I will listen – there’s new
tarmac on the road and it’s crisp
You are engraved in the lines on the ceiling
You are engraved in the eyes that I love
You are not quite poverty
Because the poorest lips condemn you
With a smile
Love of kindly bodies
Power of love
Whose politeness surges
Like a bodiless monster
Sadness beautiful face
P. Eluard (The Immediate Life)
In the morning there is a veil of redness draped across my eyes. I lie enjoying the peace which comes after waking in a new room, when I don’t know where or who I am.
The sheets are heavy. I push them off. As I dress, I think back to the night before. I dreamed that I was a whale, and I kept on trying to find someone I knew but they kept on being the wrong kind of whale for my purposes. Then I got lost in the deep and saw a gigantic, ancient hammerhead shark swim slowly over me, and it was so terrifying that I had to get up and stand in the darkness until I calmed down. That’s not like me.