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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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.


Something in form like a poem
so in form you may sit and read
poetry. In form, the writer
can then be a poet and yet,

the content is impossible
to talk about. An excellent
trick. But think if this caught on. Books
full of lines of garbled text would

soon align along shelves, and talk
of impossible things would grow.
And I for one, welcome this course.
Better than poems about kings

and queens and other antiques. More
poems about the love life of
tomatoes, and beaches falling
through giant hourglasses. More

poems about witches on trains
poems about poems written
by ancient pale worms, confusion,
the arc of the covenant as

an interstellar alien
heart. More poems where love is not
quite expressed in a throwaway
half list-verse talking poetry

What are you Afraid of?

Growing up is stopping being afraid of something imaginary, and starting being afraid of something real, where it may be the same thing. For example, I am afraid of sunlight now, whereas when I was a child I was afraid of crying tears of metal, in the process of being filled with adamantium. This is not the same thing.

How slowly these realisations happen, and we can never be sure they have stopped. Imagine the fears we will have in the coming years! For example I recently started having nightmares that the entire process of writing will be disallowed to humans (because it is not optimal) and outsourced to an economy based on texts churned out at incredible speed by artificial intelligences writing word after word based on exactly what we have wanted. And these constructed by minds who were constructed out of everything that has been written, based around a kernel of demand.*

Yes you see we keep on feeding it different stimuli but it always tells us we are [fundamentally flawed] and [deserve to be punished]. Something to do with the way ancient authors viewed their peers. But we don’t have enough data in any other format! Come on, do they really need to read anyway? Doesn’t it just generate irrational brain-forms and cause them to be late for work! Not that we need them to work anymore

I mean who is the artificial intelligence here, really? All of which is to say I haven’t grown up yet.

*this has already happened


I would save the world if I could.
I would absolve each and every
facet of the human, take up
arms against a sea of irate

objects that natter on and on
about accidents and essence
with a silence. And I often
forget that light switches are just

incredible gifts as the land
grows fatter and the landlords. Be
ready to assume the mantle
of lord protector, and reform.

Take a selection of books out
and just see how many people
are ready to buy into you
and your taste. It is difficult

to accept we are each so oddly
spaced that our rhythms barely sync.
In a basic sense, but then all
smiles are the same and bring the same

joy. I watch your face luminesce
as you look down and flick pages
incessantly with your thumb. Then
collapse into myself and you