“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.
The Codex Exionensis
full of riddles, was forgotten
for years. The curate, with his cheese
and beer, found it useful, sturdy
leaving a ring-kiss from his cup
on the boards – the greatest honour
that is bestowed upon books –
then he got his hard cheese and blade.
He left a cross of cut book-skin,
peeling, wounded it on the feet
and pierced its side with his old knife.
The book was lost from minds for days
’til a monk picked it up, with care
placing it back on the dark shelf
(after a wipe) for a book lives
and can survive bearing such love.
Knowing those shelves well, the monk came
back until he passed to the dark
of the shelved among the old stars
and the book vanished from our world
Then, when the dust had its capstone,
like a hot forest approaching
a castle, the archive came, and
spread its net, and resurrected.
crystal latticed books
interface in halls
so vast the humans
have been lost, always.
Every sentence starts
and ends with a whole
life, a human life,
and in the centre
the books turn about
a spine – which is real
human spinechord cut
and spun from the tears
of ancient servers.
You do not ‘read’ books –
you must choose but one,
and it only seems
that way – in cold fact
it was built for you.
So tear your heart out
at the plug – thousand
eras dawn and die
to build its climax;
it is perfect life.
I want to to want outmoded
forms, being young. I want to buy
a second hand record, music
I have never heard, and return
to the room with the red curtains,
and play it for you, on the couch,
while I close my tired eyes and dance.
To feel the cold plastic crackle
in my form, and open and close
the gatefold sleeve, like a locket
I have this power over, wide
and thin with the breaking card-spine.
To clothe my fantasies in styles
ripped out of old films, out of lies
that came from old archives, about
how this or that album was made
in a cabin in the snow, blood
formed from the mouth and captured here
in lines around a black disc. As
fantasies are the outfits this
moment wears. At the moment, I
want to paint, and read old fadeds
you can break the spine of, or tear
pages from to burn, if you choose to
A great book is an arsonist
that sets fire to the field of you.
Flames lick across, and slow or fast
you change. A great book is a crack
in glass, that hit just right will break,
creating a pile of shards that
rest on the pavement and inspire
this thought that something once held here.
A great book is poison, stopping
the normal functioning of the
organism. A great book is
a tear in the fabric of normal
time. Or shampoo in life’s wide eye.
A great book takes the jigsaw’s last
piece and eats it as you watch. Damn.
A great book is like an error
in printing where the whole thing starts
again when you’ve just reached halfway.
A great book can be an error.
A great book is a burst lightbulb
in a dark hall, making you cold
and nervous. A great book is a
bag that splits, scattering your stuff.
A great book is a sprained ankle