Aphorisms XXIX

Why do we hold unalloyed engagement with a show, an act, to be the most valuable form of engagement? Especially when the matter of the art is smooth and brushes at the attention with a feather.

If you do things with your phone, to engage, it can result in a deeper engagement with the matter of the art. To make pictures while you listen to the jazz. To read the mythology in the background of a painting (here to simply look is to completely ignore the painting.) To play the videogame.

To call your friend and have them hear the music through the phone. Rather than sit, absorbed, where you will forget to be with the art, and instead just watch it. Often the alloy, hardly the element.

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A Silent Coaching

To be better feels like being a rose, opening

under the moon, a cut rose in a vase.

I want to feel like that rose, in our house –

It is an issue for me, it is unclear why –

this flower. I am involved, we are involved,

in each day, plumping ourselves like a bouquet.

The key feature is this – the satin petal,

curving, and of course the thorns. 

I assume so much each hour, I cannot move

but for assuming – If anything, I have sat

in quiet rooms, making plans for transformations

that would impact me later, my feet in the water, 

my head opening, giving me more options

for living – like absorbing the air through my skin,

and making a painting. 

I might just sit here for an eternity,

playing videogames with my friends – 

or I might eat a peach ice cream. 

I would build a world more just, and expand

into intergalactic space, a rose, orbiting these suns. 

My friend would do this better – don’t I know it.

On a scale, these options are as practical,

as ever anything was practical – a bee

climbs into a flower, brushing pollen on its legs –

that is practical.  No, I will sit in my vase,

dropping petals. Specifically, I will wilt.

Support me in this, support me

by allowing me to be away from you. Know

that I love you even as I go into the other room. 

There is no deadline for this – there is only

the living root line which knots around us, finally.

I will take a step out of the door, know I will return,

later, with flowers which you may cut and vase,

before we arrange and eat our lunch.

V.137

Ends are lamps, like things in the fog
like dust clouds birthing new stars – no –
like lamps in the fog, with cut-glass;
spiderwebs in the lead-lined vents…

O friends, there is no end. Missiles
rain on my friends, there will be no
end. Just think of the desert life
vanished in the trinity test:

There is no end. Things just transform.
A paper plane flown over fields
into the lithium furnace.
Batteries to recharge and change.

Decay. Cycle again, but end?
Pages turn, like brown leaves, become
paths – monotype of the footstep –
lamps receding into the fog.

Everything’s but a pile, my friends.
A pile of such delicate mould.
Such delicate, beautiful mould.
I grow old, and softer, and old.

An end is time’s crisping edge, no –
it’s every line, every letter
An end repeats what’s never past –
An end is something just like this:

Aphorisms XXVIII

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.

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V.136

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

Reading: Immanuel by Matthew Mcnaught

“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.

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V.135

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.

V.134

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

Reading: The Undercurrents by Kirsty Bell, The Hounding of David Oluwale by Kester Aspden

“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.

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