“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.
Eth was a dreamweaver, one who could leave her body and step across the stars, in Louise Lawrence’s 1998 young adult novel, Dreamweaver. I read it sometime between the ages of 8-10, and Eth has stuck with me ever since.
Red girl – and I mean girl, for I
was young and could only begin
to imagine you – red dream girl
projecting yourself into me
from the page, but also across
galaxies, to warn me not to come –
You were held in supple halos
of redness. Your smooth hair was long
and now I see it in the hair
of my friend, who is a bullet of
a woman. I see your hair light
until all the hair I now know
or once knew began in this thought.
I remember you so vaguely –
you are the first friend who I lost
and the first one to draw from me
the structures of love. I was young
and now I am young again. Old
is the way you recur to me.
I half expect god to return
in your form. I sat with the books
on the blue grey carpet, felt it
drain the blood from my palm leaving
the impression of weave, and you.
Did my teacher remark at this
sudden silence brought on? Sighing,
I remember you. Please come back
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
If you listen when the sun rise
continues over the woods, you
can hear them. In amongst the trees
whisper the ghosts of the dark elm
and around them flutter pulp texts
of appraisal and if you then
listen when the cashier rattles
the till drawer, taking payment
for a selection of old books
you can hear them. In amongst the
shelves the ghosts of poems about
elms slip and slide from page to page
and as the sun light cuts through leaves
and bluebottles mate, rattling along
thin old bits of rope, and old stones
once used to rip up grain for flour,
let reading not have been a strange
historical cul-de-sac, let
people lower their eyes, only
let the silence ramify out
so we can hear ghosts when they spin
suspended in the air like leaves
hung on invisible threads, leave
ghosts that hang on the page margins
The voices are everywhere. There
they are crawling from the dead
floater in the bay and taking flight.
The wet walls and eaves are speaking,
can you hear them – again, it’s happening –
damp mortar discourses on Ibn Sina…
Each wave is its own word
and they pile upon pile upon pile –
’til we drown in the snotgreen sea