“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.
Sometimes the heaviest reading
is the lightest – you understand?
Threading a needle envelops
the whole of us, a subtle task –
It is not a wetted slide down
in bright acrylic tubes to pools
It is a staircase and each step
slightly differs in height. Slowness
is an active ideal. I read
the day we spent in Dunstanburgh
and it is complex. Razor bills
and Shags patrol the ruined keep
in the darkness while the basalt
is thrashed by the waves. A staircase
starts halfway up a ruined stack –
The last person to take those stairs
was some unnamed and lost servant.
Yellow gorse patches over hills
which spread to the damp horizon
and fields of rapeseed glow and grow
We have steps to take and relearn
as heat passes into the sky
over the bookshop. And your kiss
stumps me like distant history
<< In-between two redbrick houses
there is an alcove and a shed
topped with a mossy corrugate.
On the campus. A leaf dances
shivers, hovers, behind the moss –
blown as if a storm plucked at it
on a taught invisible string.
I’m still in front of the horror >>
<< There is a leaf on the road home
I see in the peripheral
behind me when I look back down
the hill – on the grey concrete steps
It jumps and slaps the ground so fast
and in paroxysms of dance
confined to its small space – I blank
on everything and watch the glitch >>
<< Roland Barthes was crossing the road
when he suddenly stopped – in front
on the path ahead a brown leaf
shivered as if it was burning
but there was no smoke. Enraptured
he didn’t notice the milk truck.
As the blood pooled the leaf flew up
to hover over him, spinning >>
There’s something cleansing about watching old papers burn, something similar to watching a big long delete bar progressing on the screen, things being overwritten with randomly generated strings. The process of scrunching up letters, and then seeing them turn to ash, the randomly generated strings of the earth. Like we will!
I was going to see West Side Story, and I had a bit of time earlier in the day, so I thought I might put on La La Land to see how it’s aged.
Always, around, the posters, the crowd, in the background. When Emma Stone goes into the restaurant, she slips through time slightly, caught by a melody. Potent icon of a lost time, attractive to romantics, the jazz piano solo. Trying to escape the grind, or be successful at creating a kind of special creation, having the cake and eating it.
Sun-prey prisoner of my head,
rub out the hill, rub out the forest.
The sky is more beautiful than ever.
give it form so precise
that I disperse with a wave.
Clouds of the first day,
insensible clouds, that nothing authorised,
their grain burns
in the straw-fire of my eyes.
In the end, to cover itself in dawn
the day must be as pure as the night
My feelings for you quite simply brush aside the form of a long series of poems, making the thing into a hellish experience for anyone with obsessive compulsive symptoms
Tear out this page, go on, tear it out. The numerics will leap from 3 to 5, but at least this stain will be gone. On its way to an incinerator, ready to burn and fly over the city, stick to the inside of the chimney, get breathed in.
And that torn line of paper, or cut with a knife. Hope it falls from your memory soon
The language engineers at work
in caves, at the timefall, at work
tending herds of grammar, culling
precious words. Tapping flints on walls
patiently guiding neurons through
submerged caverns, through pinching caves,
seeding fields in the deep. Alas
memory is weak and falling
and the dark is never ending.
Scathing eyes and reticent laughs
fill the blackness. Babel was made
here, by someone, alone. The bricks
to build towers are clay and hay
which pour from loners’ joyful mouths.
Like wildfire a new word comes
and burns the village to the ground,
No, it says. I have caught this fire
I climbed the black mountain alone
and god spoke, spoke in flame to ME,
PROMETHEUS, MOSES, but fire
is fickle – do not expect much –
The terrain is rough, and fools rush
to smooth it out. I build, I sculpt
a language which must crack and fail