Particulate Matters

An unmade bed with mint green duvet showing an open notebook,hot water bottle and dressing gown

It was the morning I had decided to stop living as if dust wasn’t the primary community in which I sobbed and thrived, daily, towards dying. I spent Tuesday night in a frenzy trying to discern what particular dust or pollen (animal, vegetable, floral) had triggered my allergies anew, what baseline materiality had exploded in my small room its abysmal density. All recommended air filters had sold out online in the midst of other consumers’ presumably asthmatic dust panics; the highly desirable Vax filter seemed sold out across all channels, and I eyed up the pre-owneds of eBay with lust and suspicion, through a fug of beastly sneezes. A friend recommended the insufflation of water as a temporary remedy: ‘I drop some drops on my chopping board, get a straw and snort it up like a line of Colombian snow’, he texts me. I sneeze at the thought, but have to admit that the promise of clearing one’s nasal cavities with water is somewhat appealing. For isn’t water, like sneezing, a force in itself? Some kinds of sneeze come upon you as full-body seizures of will; so that to sneeze repeatedly you must surrender an hour or so, sometimes a full day, to the laconic state of being constantly taken over by this brute, unattractive rupture. ‘Sneezing’, writes Pascal, ‘takes up all the faculties of the soul’. My soul is in credit to the god dusts, who owe me good air. It’s why I am always writing poems (the word air meaning song/composition). But maybe I need good water, a wave of it. 

In Syncope: The Philosophy of Rapture (1990), the philosopher Catherine Clément characterises sneezing as an instance of ‘syncope’: a kind of ‘“cerebral eclipse,” so similar to death that it is also called “apparent death”; it resembles its model so closely that there is a risk of never recovering from it’. My muscles ache; I eclipse myself with blood, cellular juices and water. What kind of spiritual exhaustion results from being cast into eclipse repeatedly? Quite simply, one becomes ghost: blocked, momentarily or otherwise, from the light of consciousness. One becomes lunar and attached to the dark bright burn, the trembling red of their inflammation. Those who suffer respiratory allergies might better glimpse what Eugene Thacker calls ‘a world-without-us’. I sneeze myself to extinction. It is the hyperbole of a felt oblivion. I do this on random days of the year, at random times; it is beyond my control. But can I derive pleasure from it, as one does the other varieties of syncope (orgasm, swoon or dance)?

From Spirited Away (2001)

Let me admit, I have always had a fetish for those moments on television and film where a character is administered, or self-administers, an intravenous dose of painkill so sweet as to enunciate this ecstasy simply by falling to a sweet slump, their eyes rolled back accordantly. The premise of silencing the body’s arousal so completely to blissful inertia (suspending the currency of insomnia, hyperactivity, anxiety and attention deficit) is delicious. The calmness of snowfall, as if to swallow the durée of its full soft melt. From quarantine, I fantasise about having adequate boiler pressure as to run a bath and practice the khoratic hold of hot water’s suspension. This is not what I text my landlord. 

Recently, my partner spent several hours unpacking boxes from the attic of their parent’s house, in preparation for moving belongings to a new flat. The next day, I found myself suffused in the realm of allergy: unable to think clearly, or articulate more than three words without the domination of a sneeze. On such days, I am held on the tight leash of my own sensitivity: I tremble pathetically, my blood temperature rises; my nose glows reindeer and no amount of fresh air, hydration or sinus clearance will appease it. I am not ‘myself’. The body has enflamed itself upon contact with the ambient and barely visible. I feel an intimate, but non-consensual relation to the ghost trace, the dust trace, of all boxed things — finally been given the attention they so summoned or desired in dormancy. I mourn with objects the passage of time and neglect so betrayed on their surface; I never ask for this, but my body is summoned. Dust presses itself upon you, even as you produce it. I’m scared to touch things because of the dust. What is it but the atmospheric sloughing of something volatile, mortal — the grammatology of our darkest spoiler, telling the story of how bodies are not wholly our own, or forever. 

Sneezing disrupts and spoils nice things; it is an allergic response to both luxury and decay. Cheap glitter, rose spores, Yves Saint Laurent. Sneeze sneeze. ‘When a student comes to class wearing perfume’, admits Dodie Bellamy, ‘my nose runs, my eyes tear, I start sneezing; there’s nowhere to move to and I don’t know what to do. When the sick rule the world perfume will be outlawed’. Often I have this reaction too. It prompts a fury in me: Why can’t I have nice things, as I used to? During my undergraduate finals, I developed phantosmia: a condition in which you smell odours that aren’t actually there (olfactory hallucination). Phantosmia is typically triggered by a head injury or upper respiratory infection, inflamed sinuses, temporal lobe seizures, brain tumours or Parkinson’s disease. Often I have tried to conjure some originary trauma which would explain my condition: did some cupboard door viciously slam my head at work (possibly), did I fall over drunk (hm), was I subject to some terrible chest infection or vehement hayfever (often)? Luckily, my phantosmia was a relatively benign and consistent scent: that of an ersatz, fruity perfume. It recalled the pink-tinted Poundland scents I selected as a twelve-year-old to vanquish the horror of body odour raised by the spectre of Physical Education, before graduating to the exotic spices of Charlie Red. I was visited by this scent during intervals of increasing frequency as I served customers at work, cooked or studied; I trained myself to ignore them by pinging a rubber band on my wrist, or plunging my nose into scented oils I kept on my person. Years later they returned at moments of stressful intensity; the same cryptic, sickly smell. 

More recently, phantosmia, under the umbrella of a general ‘parosmia’ (abnormality in the sense of smell) is associated with Covid-19. Not long ago I realised I hadn’t been smelling properly for months, despite not testing positive until very recently. Had I, like many others, a ghost Covid that went undetected by symptom or test? Drifting around, deprived of olfactory sense, I felt solidarity with the masses of others in this flattened condition. I eat, but when was the last time I truly enjoyed food? My body doesn’t register hunger like other people’s; unless it is a ritualised mealtime summoned in company, I eat when I get a headache. Pacing around the flat, I plunge my nose again into jars of cinnamon, kimchi, mint tea bags, bulbs of garlic. Certain things cut through the fug: coffee, bleach, shit. I remember a friend, who was born without a sense of smell, telling me long ago that the absence of that sense made her a particularly spicy cook. Often she wouldn’t notice the over-firing of a chilli until her nose started running. What does scent protect us from? What does it proffer? Surely it is the unsung, primal gateway to corporeal desire itself: the gross and indescribable comfort of a lover’s sweaty t-shirt, the waft of woodsmoke from a nearby village, the coruscation of caramelised onion to whet your appetite. Scent is preliminary in the channel of want. Without it, I feel cast adrift into anhedonia. I begin chasing scent. Still, I sneeze.

Dust gathers. Is it yours or mine? Can we really, truly, smell our dust? How does dust manifest as material trace or evidence? In Sophie Collins’ poem ‘Bunny’, taken from the collection Who Is Mary Sue? (2018), the speaker interrogates an unknown woman on the subject of dust: 

Where did the dust come from 
and how much of it do you have? 
When and where did you first notice
the dust? Why didn’t you act sooner?
Why don’t you show me a sample.
Why don’t you have a sample?
Why don’t you take some responsibility? 
For yourself, the dust?

It would be perhaps an act of bad naturalisation to read the dust allegorically, or metonymically, as a figure for all kinds of evidence we are expected to produce as survivors of violence and harm. This evidence is to be quantified (‘how much’, ‘a sample’) and accounted for temporally in terms of cause, effect and responsible agency (‘first notice’, ‘act sooner’). The insistent repetition of dust produces a dust cloud: semantic saturation leaves us unable to discern the true ‘meaning’ of the dust. That anaphora of passive aggression, ‘Why don’t you’, coupled with the wherewhen and why of narrative, insists on a logical explanation for the dust that is apparently not possible. For anyone summoned to account for their trauma, the dust might be a sort of materialised psychic supplement: the particulate matters of cause and effect, unequally distributed and called for. It seems as though the speaker’s aggression, by negation wants to produce the dust while ardently disavowing the premise of its existence. The poem asks: is it possible to have authority over one’s experience when others require this authority to take the form of an account, a story, with appropriate physical corroboration?  The more I read the poem, the more ‘dust’ becomes Covid. But it could be many things; dust always is.

‘Bunny’ also reveals the process by which testimony is absorbed into a kind of white noise, a dust storm repugnant to those called upon to listen. As Sara Ahmed puts it in Complaint! (2021), ‘To be heard as complaining is not to be heard. To hear someone as complaining is an effective way of dismissing someone’. Collins’ poem performs the long, grim thread of being told to ‘forget’, bundling us into a claustrophobia whose essence, the speaker implores, is ‘your own / sense of guilt’. Does this not violently imply (from the speaker’s perspective): as producers of dust, we take responsibility, wholly, for what happens to our bodies? I take each question of the poem as a sneeze: it is the only answer I have. I feel compelled to listen.  

As she is asked, ‘Why don’t you take some responsibility? / For yourself, the dust?’, the addressee of the poem becomes conflated with the dust itself. I often think of this quote from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar (1963), where erstwhile sweetheart Buddy Willard announces to budding poet Esther Greenwood, ‘a poem is […] A piece of dust’. Poems can be swept away; they are miniscule in the masculine programme of reality. They are stubborn, perhaps, but easily ignored by the strong and healthyy. In ‘Bunny’, the addressee’s own words are nothing but dust, ‘these words, Bunny’: the name ‘Bunny’ hailing something beyond the colloquial term, dust bunny — a ball of dust, fibre and fluff. The invocation of the name a kind of violent summons: you, the very named essence of you, are nothing but words and dust; there is no proof. The more I say the word ‘bunny’ aloud, the more I become aware of a warm and tender presence; this entity who has lived so long in the house of language — under the stairs, on the mantel’s sentence. Bunny, bunny, bunny. Clots in syntax. Dust can be obliquely revealed to all who notice; it coats the surface of everything. It is in the glow of wor(l)dly arrangement, the iterative and disavowed: a kind of ‘paralanguage’ Collins writes of in her nonfiction book small white monkeys (2017):

similar to ours but that is not ours […] when a writer manages — nearly, briefly — to access this paralanguage, we get a glimpse of what could be expressed if we were able to access this other, more frank (but likely bleak, likely barbaric) reality. 

Running parallel to, or beneath ‘Bunny’, is the addressee’s reply, or lack of: the dust of her permeable silence, or inability to speak. It catches as a dust bunny in the throat. So how do we speak or listen, when faced with the aporetic knots of a hidden, ‘barbaric’ reality that is glimpsed in various forms of testimony and written expression? ‘Citation too can be hearing’, writes Ahmed. The title of Collins’ poem cites implicitly Selima Hill’s collection Bunny (2001), which she writes of extensively in small white monkeys as a book ‘I am in love with’. This citation opens ‘Bunny’ through a portal to the household of trauma that is Bunny: documenting, as Hill’s back cover describes, ‘the haunted house of adolescence’ where ‘Appearances are always deceptive’ and the speaker is harassed by a ‘predatory lodger’. Attention (and reading between texts) offers us openings, exits, corridors of empathy, solidarity and recognition. Its running in the duration of a poem or conversation might very well relate to the ‘paralanguage’ of which Collins speaks, in the oikos of trauma, grief and counsel. If poems are dust, then to know them — to write them, read them aloud and listen — is to disturb the order of things, one secret speck at a time. But the sight of each speck belies the plume of many.

The morning I tested positive for Covid on a lateral flow, having assumed my respiratory problems were accountable to generalised allergies, I decided to blitz my one-bedroom flat of dust. In the hot panic of realising my cells were now fighting a virus, I vacuumed my carpet and brushed orange cloths over bookshelves. I was really getting into it. Then my hoover began making a petulant, rasping noise. I turned off the power and flipped it upside down. To my horror, in the maw of the hoover’s rotating brush, I saw what can only be described as dust anacondas: huge strings of dense grey matter attached to endless, chunky threads of hair. Urgently donning a face mask, I began teasing these nasty snakes out with a pencil, as clumps of dust emitted from the teeth of the hoover and gathered on my carpet, thickly. All this time I was crying hysterically at the fact of my having Covid less than two weeks before my PhD thesis was due, the hot viral feeling in my head, and of having to deal with the dust of my own flesh prison: the embarrassment, shame and fail of it all, presented illustriously before me. 

From My Neighbour Totoro (1988)

If only I could have purified my air! Forced to confront my body’s invasion (this time coronavirus, not just dust), I try to settle into the ‘load’. I make lists of the smells I miss, research perfumes online (aerosols glimpsed from the safe distance of text). I sneeze a lot, cry a lot, wheeze a lot; and then my sinuses go blank. Is this breathing? I imagine the cells of my body glowing new colours from the Omicron beasties. I re-watch one of my favourite Studio Ghibli movies, My Neighbour Totoro (1988), which features anthropomorphic dust bunnies known as susutarawi, or ‘soot sprites’ (which also appear in Spirited Away (2001)). The girls of Totoro, Noriko and Mei, initially encounter these adorable demon haecceities as ‘dust bunnies’, but later they are explained as ‘soot spreaders’ (as per Netflix’s Japanese-to-English translation). When the younger girl, Mei, gingerly prods her finger into a crack in the wall of the old house she has just moved into, a flurry of the creatures releases itself to the air. She catches one in her hands, and presents it proudly to Granny, a kind elderly neighbour who reassures her the soot sprites will leave if they find agreeable the new inhabitants of their house. When she opens her palms, the sprite is gone, leaving just a smudge.

An absent-presence in My Neighbour Totoro is Noriko and Mei’s mother, Yasuko, who is in hospital, recovering from an unexplained ‘illness in the chest’. Mei’s confrontation with the animated dust mites, or soot sprites, acts out the wound of her mother’s absence. With curiosity and panic, she and her sister delight in the particulate matters of the household, of more-than-human hospitality. What is abject about history then, or even the family, its hauntings, is evoked trans-corporeally through the trace materials of a powdery darkness, dark ecology (see Timothy Morton’s 2016 book of this name) that is spooky but sweet. (S)mothering in the multiple. My sense of smell now is consumed entirely by a kind of offbeat metallic ash; I’m nostalgic for cheap perfume. I’m not sure if this essay is a confession or who is speaking; it seems increasingly that I speak from a cloud of unknowing coronaviruses. And so where do I end or begin, hyperbolically, preparing my pen or straw? The ouroboros of my dust anacondas reminding me that I too was only here, alive and in this flat, by tenancy and to return from my current quarantine having prodded the household spirits for company, with nothing for show for it these days, except these, dust, my words.

Dorothy

Dorothy

Dorothy’s Opiates is the name of the real Arcadia 
not to be busted, learning that sleep deprivation is a kind of
spiritual death from a podcast featuring the Nap Ministry
I set off to sleep under three duvets: one is representative 
of snow, the other a sleep mode, the other a body. I write to you
from beneath this slumberous context to wonder why anyone
who ever lived in a single glazed tenement loved the cold.
I can think of reasons: always something to look forward to
such as the crocuses and milder temperatures, the searching of
someone to warm you, wanting to dissolve into their skin
this someone who is never cold like you. I can’t explain this cold
but I can summarise its various sensations, cold as in a kind of disease
that eats your bones from the inside with terrible icicles 
and lives in your back as a demon, cackling from within your kidneys;
a small child dependent on your energy, the cold needs fed.
The cold is in your chest, your throat, your head. 
It throbs in your fingertips until they are red and puffy and burning
like nothing else you have ever felt: imagine every orgasm of your life
summarised and congealed as an opposite evil — pain — and concentrated
in the tips of your fingers, as though a malformed heart had grown 
in each one, beating out of time, each heart individually failing 
at the tips of your fingers until the pain spreads out like a juice
all the way down your fingers, hot, the nerves pulling into your arm
but it is so concentrated at the tips, you can’t really move 
and to hit them against each other is like clanging vegetal matter
against blunt metal, they are thumpy and numb, now the pain 
is melting it becomes a warm sensation of somewhat release
as though only a generalised bruising of the nervous ends 
of all your digits. And by this time I hope I’ll have gotten home
to run them perilously under cold water, bringing them to room temperature
as if they could crack off and crumble into snowflakes of ache
it takes ten minutes or more; after which they will sting 
with the feeling of having been battered. And it will happen again 
the second your blood spikes, you go outside; they may as well 
have been trodden on or run over by a van the way they feel right now.
I ask you sometimes to squeeze my hands so hard it bursts the blue of us.
            Once I knew a worse cold
accordant to body weight this kind of cold is all-consuming for all seasons
of the year, a kind of inverse fire that licks your insides with its ice 
so you feel it as a constant in your sternum, the cold that is eating 
the meat of your ribs so you become a delicate succulent, always with 
sugar on your mind, wanting to be watered. Always watering yourself
fruitlessly
    and feathered of flesh, wilted
as if to float upon a snowdrift and not leave footprints.
                                    Sometimes it is barely to speak 
or, having dry Januaried the masses, some lubricant of society was missing
sorely from our dreams. So we did not dream of touching each other
so much as falling from breezeblocks, frosted, the hard fuck that doesn’t come
bounding down stairwells to greet you at sun-up with cigarettes and coffee,
which you cannot touch, which aggravates your nerves to a passion. 
Nicotine, caffeine, dopamine. The endocrine systems of our dreams 
    are running on empty
and I have fed this day with the manifest boilersuit, as though to fix my own boiler
with mechanical prowess, die in your arms and so on. There are parts of the city
whose arteries confuse to the point of a general surge, desirous of insulation
    and drivers 
arrange the marzipan animals of their dashboard tenderly. 
            Snowfall. The first of the year’s cold drama
gone to pick up a wardrobe through the Narnias of other vinyl records
caught on the loop of the sweltering imaginaries a slice of life, of liquorice.
   Flying by the Vogue Chippy of Cumbernauld Road.
You play loose with it, as if the rain alone would melt 
what meadow remains of the innocence. A summary of the movie
of other Januaries: asking if I am a bad feminist for not liking such-and-such 
a book, the enclave of housing utopias, the sunshine duration of the ad 
for Stella Artois, the scene in All is Forgiven where the drunk kids dance 
to The Raincoats’ version of ‘Lola’. I want to be inebriated 
with chips and cheese on the corner and kissing you darkly
in the overlit takeaway. Anniversary of another fascist coup. 
The cold in blunder, spraying my tongue with Vitamin D, worrying about sleep.
                        ‘Dorothy’ is a song by Kevin Morby
in the video, somebody plays a trumpet underwater. I drape a cardigan
over my daughterhood, pull stories across my knees until I am deep 
in the grass with you, the snow grass, a long sore note, we have pink faces
keeping up with each other’s sleeps, to rotate
in the bed, the powdery dreamscapes gathering form. 
            Dorothy,
Your warm apparition not to be sold or bought, an account 
of the aspirin sunlight, too much, taking the flower pill 
that makes me react as a plant, long stem in your arms 
and coaxed of sap. 
   Calcium is a luxury to those who might keep their flesh self-
sustained and hard and warm. I thought of Kansas and corn 
with the morning yoghurt as a viscid snow, spoonfuls 
of what we are missing to kiss 
goodbye of the freezing streets of Partick, melt in your mouth, 
   the pressure of boilers
adjusted by release, the way our bodies incline to the light
even when it is missing, how I wish you could trade
kisses for calories of actual heat, the truthfeel of one in the morning
stands for baggies of memories
    the prized alacrity of exercise, 
            I insufflate 
                                   the nervous internet.
            If this poem really were sentient, this would be the queue 
for the doctor’s office, which is a location after all, novel
in its banality, after the fact of actually being here, a state of waiting
requiring the mortal presence of your body.
  I stopped asking what a poem can do
when it seemed like I was done typing 
with my fingers searing hot white words like arrows 
tearing the flesh as they wrote, O Dorothy, listening 
   to a band called Trapped in Kansas.
I was born. Wrestling with duvets to change the music sheets
afresh, up close with the soot-covered mountains, 
called to the room with thermometers jammed 
in the hole of the poem, its quavers jostling with old composition,
   bloodstream, organ, snow.
                                             It is safe, it is safe. 

With the Boys

July was such a busy month but one of its delights was working on the design for this book, With the Boys by fred spoliar. I’ve been so buzzed about upcoming SPAM releases (more to be announced soon) and what better way to kick off our 2021 roster than with this vivid purgatorial rush of a book. The cover design is a collage layering of illustrations, colour effects and old woodcuts (including those vomiting sun battle scenes which divide the book into sections and contribute to the faux ye olde vibe) which gesture to the book’s primal scene (imo): the confrontation with the boy laying down >insert meme here: “you winning son??”< as the OG basis for all the boys, are we for or against them, might we let them rest? As fred reminded me at a recent reading in Crystal Palace Park, “masculinity is no joke maria” and this book explores how the cascades of climate crisis, austerity, property relations, ‘fake news’, ongoing colonialism, racial capitalism, transphobia and pandemic are all bundled up in the ancient, ever-mutating violence of patriarchy. The demands the boys place on us and those placed on the boys, we understand them in a camaraderie of the here-and-now that is our future ancestral citation, cracking a cold one for the world that is burning ice and going online. With the Boys is a book of post-internet poetry, an adventure story, a lyric dalliance with historical epic in synchronic form. It’s a book that refuses linear models of transition, progress and accumulation, and ideas of history as a totality; a book that finds residues of love and care among masculinity’s ‘trashfire’ (in Al Anderson’s words). I want to think of it partly in the realm of Keats’ ‘negative capability’, the idea of lyric identification as doubt, the pluralism of the boys as a quivering flame or rippling plasma, capable of being more than what essentialist gender ideology would deem the boys. Your ‘brain on elegy’, your ‘stupid hurt’, your ‘buzzcut chorus’ and ‘apple products’ – humming, ubiquitous, they belong to all of us, in a way.

Process sketches for the book cover.

There is something about a (re)birth in this book; fred has called it ‘a purgation’. Something been set on fire or released, the way of touching abysses of sleepless thinking and facing up, fuck, to the impossibilities of work and not-work. To morph, mourn, join together, be commoning or calling out, be warm or hard or wet or sore, be there and gone. One thing that resounds is the refrain, the sonorous sense (something Verity Spott commented on at our recent launch, and something I love about Verity’s work also) of lyric in the book as a musical sprawl, fever, affirmation. For me, this is totally synaesthetic and electric, ‘a crucial magenta song’ and ‘like aleatory dance departing’ in the sacred gatherings of the rats — the animals that survived 2020 (their epic and terrible year) and will go on thriving beyond us. Like, we are not supposed to be here. Like, we crawl over the language that won’t want to hold us and we throw out this ask. Are we to be comrades? Sometimes you read fiery poetry that enflames and hisses (kisses) and makes you want to attend the protest, make the call, offer your body to the line (the book’s closing poem, ‘kludge time‘, was written in response to the recent Kenmure Street anti-raid action), and With the Boys summons this fire, but also sings in the muscly erotics of its cinders. These cinders which catch in the breath before and after the poem, which can’t be reduced to this or that reading; which burn with occasional satire, twinge and catch of meaning.

You want to say the boys are a folk knowledge, they are song, they are the startup code that ceaselessly reboots until lyric glitches in ‘fertile crevices’. They are a compost, the dregs of bad schooling, an institution of historical impotence, a gesture of care and play (‘I push you on the swings’), an orientation towards the vibe, a grammar of suspension ‘stopping by the interchange‘, a big fucking ‘nova‘ that hopes to find you well. Hi, hello, hi. *WAVE*. Everyone in some sense knows them. They are obviously so much more. I’m this hush-breath away from saying the boys are a hyperobject. You decide. The boys are shoegaze distortion all over capital’s weeping, the road less travelled, dazzling and pregnant and ‘wilding’. They will do your makeup and hum the ‘harmonic law to / love to leave to love’ — bright pink and chartreuse. You better have a go at them.

With the Boys is available for £8 from SPAM Press. You can get in touch with the editors for review copies or to stock in your bookstore at spamzine.editors[at]gmail.com.

Playlist: July 2021

Have you followed me closely through the long four years of being caught into list like thistles do make this white stuff, fluffy July of it, caught pale against purple and green indelible sunsets. I appreciate all kinds of writing and sometimes a product has a good line like, rain and dark gold the podium and ringtone, we’ve got to get ready, there are some stones that remain. For memory and in VHS.

*

Something happened which I could not write about, and it was scary. Summer is smoky, you see it all around and when you don’t you know it’s still there, if you know what I mean, everywhere you look and don’t see it you know. The smoke grows lilac from the country song and it’s a new one, drawn from the old one, Waxahatchee is also known as Katie and I like how sobriety opens a songwriting and settles. Not that a loss does settle. This is a week and more soberly in the poem, reflecting the dust bits, it’s not clarity it’s cornflake crushed beneath foot. Tonight is my exhibition and a stupid person cutting the lawn, I try to look outside. The curtains are just gauze and Mau texts to say there’s something funny about ‘gossamer sounds / on the porch’ as a line and we agree all spiderwebs are kinky because ‘entrapment / constraint or binding’, and spiders eating their mates and like, how this conversation occurs mint green on lilac as in nature, bad NYC illustration, having whatsapped the last chalice or lapped from, critical, I owe you a whole month of blog there’s a backlog, the real foxes coming around the lot. Joey says a blog is useful if it has a playlist, music is useful. I’ve been reading his pamphlet again, let’s do it, which he wrote for / dedicated to our reading group, and thinking about poetry and collectivity and action. And what you can do on the face of loss. An old woman chides the speaker to not plant vegetables on private land and the speaker replies by ruminating on the conditions necessary for flourishing, I love this line ‘some people think its cool to have / shit / like a forest what the fuck but it doesn’t stop’. I am reading this poem for its labour and dreaming in a flat it’s not mine, for its fight and for what it makes me want to do, this it which is like the it of a pop song, more of a doing and pronoun, Ily, who do you think we are? What do foxes think about music? I hear a gate creak outside as I write this and imagine on the bare patch of grass where the bins are the block became meadowed and fred gets targeted ads for hydrangeas, having told the story of the hydrangea wars one time too many and I also want my targeted ads, if I must have them, to sell me wildflower seeds and the bulbs of potential vegetables. I bought an album and it had two flower bulbs and a cassette tape included, everything wrapped in beautiful tissue paper. Hungover I am thinking about that and about Joey’s writing on the pale yellow paper you sensed was artfully stolen. There are lots of important thoughts in this pamphlet like ‘it’s dreamy to dream when the real & necessary work / is ugly like steps clogged & knotty with nauseous / exhaustion’ and what does it mean to say something is dreamy, I wish I could ask Bernadette and get her poem for an answer like an answer machine where the words are crackled but everything you need to know is in the tone of the voice and the space between sound and how there is a breeze through the line, a wise one. Or just like, the 3 second double space between songs on a playlist where you turn to the other and know. Time pass. Calcined eclipsed as if I scrolled mortality site with its many many awful ads about products for tooth decay and viagra and thinking is this the absolute dramatisation of death on the internet, can we not have something clean, a kind of writing. After our phone call all my targeted ads are for lingerie no person would wear, it makes me alien to say so? Someone tells me that the databases are inordinately complex and there’s nothing a layperson could do to pull out that code and so you have to trust the abyssopelagic practice of software developers. The speaker wants to find things in the gaps and ‘that’s something’ like when knowing your neighbours, I smile at my neighbours say hi, my old neighbours were good we swapped books and furniture and talked about work and what we were reading, one of them was always reading long, historical muscular novels but he also loved Lispector like me. One of them a ceramicist’s apprentice. What of a poem encased in clay, all the animals of this room are poems, more than we could know, as I swallowed the memory of their crumble and form. This pamphlet of Joey’s is always worrying about what poems are and can do even as it stays true to the ethic of let’s do it, we keep pushing even as we question what it is we are doing; I like this, it’s what I want to call ongoingness. It’s poetry that makes me hungry a kind of lush hunger like the dew upon new gardens and sparkling water that is also natural, holding glass to the light and clink and chime, we share a bottle, we share blossom, ‘i only want to read with friends / in the actual field of experience / in the garden of ourselves / exactly not edenic since we built it / in the future’ I want to epigraph, keep this close, eternal bindweed in the garden of ourselves and something to build in the future, let’s do it, like kick off your trainers into the sun, it’s so funny but I’m crying and sneezing. Ever since I moved I keep Gloria’s poem, ‘dig it some no place’, ‘a real-time no-time edited response to Bernadette Mayer(BM)’s “Utopia”’, as a printout by my bedside. I got this from a Zarf launch G. read at back in 2019 at the Glasgow Women’s Library, and I remember wanting to live in this poem in a way that rarely happens, I wanted to understand its address and who was living in it, what was happening. It was a year of climate strikes and the fucked election. I didn’t see any butterflies for a whole year. Joey’s poems make me long for the good things we learned in lockdown and also to be with friends and doing ‘preparatory work’ which might mean learning to cook for ten people or just learning to hold space, be present, show face ‘& we hold it far away’, this garden we built and are building. What can this plant do. How do you like your tea. For a while it is a Zoom garden. The roadside wildflowers are great this year, tall and showy purples and yellows. I ride the wave of heat and instantly miss it to wake up shivering at unsent texts in my dreams; in the middle of being held or not held by you. I learn this Irish phrase about it being so hot the ground’s cracking open or it’s hot enough to split rocks, I don’t remember, and once or twice this has actually happened in the saying of the phrase. Kirsty works in a glasshouse library by a motorway. ‘back in june / when it felt like everything / was cracking open’ and the ‘visceral’ like how I read this poem in February along the canal, like how I walked with it and wanted to do something like punch thru glass or send an email, but mostly I wrote instead and to hover where that scream was, placeholder, what was inside the rock of the day, how I gave it to the air of the field in Lambhill, how I miss those walks. ‘Theories are ok, but what patterns of movements will we trace through the streets as we go about our lives, who will we pass there, and how will we pass them?’ Joey asks in let’s do it. Someone asks me the time and someone asks for directions and someone is asking can I stash my booze in your pannier bags to my friend. I watch the police call children away from the fountain and I sip water and cycle home. Sometimes like the speaker, Joey’s speaker, ‘I’m dissociating from the city’ and I don’t know anything about it, who built this, how am I gonna do a wash or refresh these conditions, how am I gonna drink coffee on a Friday morning and wake up to the songs that I want, how am I gonna tell or not tell you. Nothing anyone can say and being scattered, needing encouragement, our friends are elsewhere, we hold each other through words because it is the flowers we have, gifted or put there, not to wilt, speculative to put anything in the soil and see if it grows the way I write a paragraph on discord, that’s something. Heart fires tripled and inboxed. Joey’s poetry teaches me to go beyond realism but not be complacent about something in the present as if that was enough, the eruption itself as utopic. I’m excited about what happens next once we begin changing, as if by the inward and outward transformation we would get to the place, hug emoji, to speak on the radio against enclosure and the ‘no place’ of Gloria’s poem maybe where you ‘Leave page […] to begin this’, and what Joey says: ‘If this place is so radically unrecognisable that to get there we would lose ourselves, then perhaps this imaginative effort is the beginning of a willing self-transformation, which we might hold onto in the midst of all we do in the hope of its eventual collective completion’. I imagine my face in the mirrors of dust shop windows, becoming something else when you say in the dream We shouldn’t… There is nothing left to buy but time. I am still trying to write about that thing whose impossibility is the basic problem of how I can feel and look around and know you, know me, how we are here and still have breath and like food, and like mornings ahead of us still possible to hold and break fruit and run for trains, share music. I appreciate the way this work is a writing back to itself, as if to reclaim the errata and do more with the adjacent claims and forms and changes — to acknowledge that anything we write academically exists within a context, it has this limit, something weathers through it and what is afterwards done is gonna crash through the words. I wish I was cycling long and hard along the canal today, I wish I was breathless and flush. I like what Joey says of poetry’s ‘glittering / incomprehensibility’ and how it disrupts ‘capitalist (etc) subjectivity’ and how at the exhibition everybody wanted to eat the sparklehorse, Jack’s sparklehorse, like it was this giant animal-shaped sugar plum cake with hallucinatory and erotic properties if you just had a slice, a small bite, a scoop of the horse. People want to imbibe the air magic they want to transform and be more than flesh, I think that’s poetry also the wanting to tip all the glitter right down your throat and come up rosy, aura, in excess of yourself, beyond consumer. Morvern’s dream of white horses on the beach. To read this, you had to be born and you had to feel something opening, hydrated, sapped of sense. In the pamphlet one of my favourite things is the scribbles, curlicues, tumbleweed gestures drawn on some of the pages, the sight of photocopied handwriting turned asemic scrawl — this gesture of something in excess of the language, a tending of the page, a tender unknowing. That I made a mark and remarked it. It is something to long for. Whose hand do you hold when you say let’s do it, not to ask what follows but move into that shimmering space of the it, which is always in motion. I want to work harder, have stronger hands and language. 

*

One day I will be champion at hula hoop or retire from the athleticism of the long poem, the turbulent manner of a short moan, long-term loan, poems to unravel barbed wire fences, and how I had the library book but they lost the library book, found it. Everything turns up sometime. The turnips are good this year is a financial statement for racoons all around us. I want to go slow but I keep speeding up. Riverside champagne and bicycle, some of your Guinness, Pinot Grigio, Cava and fern, curl inside me a thought of the night and night club, lilac book, not yet. Ice rub, hot flush. Everything good in my room is mint green and white and nightly 

I want music to be everywhere, remembering

slenderly the first month in your new place

and all these milestones of 

the lake at twilight, Elliott Smith

you say

“can you play it for me”

I’ve been here a month, I am getting to know the roads

I’m supposed to buy furniture

I get home 

Kind of still drunk at 2am I watch that film about London, 2007, Giddy Stratospheres and it felt really lonely. I longed for more party scenes and more of the beginning running to ‘The Rat’ and you’ve got a nerve, more of a carelessness of the edge of history where you still have money or you don’t, sinking a wine and running for trains in the capital city and not falling asleep and the timeline’s messed up, how did we get there, landfill I die, the country is lonely. I love the whole boy/girl friendship and especially what it means to wait or go meet someone and the thrill of being out with them, swap hats, wrapped around each other, unconditional, laughing and wholesome and immune to other ppl. Platonic hold hands. I’m lucky to have had that. In 2007 I read NME every week and collected a sense of what was happening in London. Squat raves and indie discos and gigs that ended in broken glass and fights and the end of any sort of neoliberal consensus about to be voiced and soon. I was just walking the empty crossroads, smoking menthols. The girl Laura with the peach-orange hair is an artist and wants to claim club promotion as a kind of art, I get her, I get that she should be able to do that and contribute to the living as art, and nobody dies. Anagram of my name is ‘lame red armies’. Clubs always felt total elsewhere it seemed impossible that they really existed and now even more so, what is the fee, but I want to be in them. Who cares about satire it doesn’t care about anyone. You never see her without a hat and this is protection, wearing a beret against the world at the fierce mercy of cab drivers, “look after her yea?”. Everyone is wearing leopard print and looks good. We should be able to do this and nobody dies. Ventilation. The coloured tights and short skirts. Art school. When I cried at this film I cried for the twist, was I prepared for it, the way it screams something

against that hedonism, delusion, but they keep going on. The film isn’t sexy at all and the only sex hinted at is kind of gross, creepy or regrettable. I knew even drugged it had to be better but bad sex in films is so British. I felt the moral message was too strong. The boys in bands are more or less all annoying and druggy, sometimes endearing but mostly dumb, the long familiar ket nights of blurry talk. But the music is good and the guys are fun, it’s just acting. Besides, I miss that. To be a dumb boy in a band with the boys I alight from my slip and reach for the door, it’s always open, do you have a light. Now I go out alone if I go out at all. It’s a lonely film because something of the isolation of the pandemic overshadows it. What does it mean to care for someone? That I watched this on a sofa alone, that it was filmed in 2020 and they had to do artful camera things to simulate a bigger crowd, that we could only get one limited slice of the action. How to ask for help. I wanted bigger party scenes, more of the hedonism, rat sightings, I loved seeing people take drugs more or less constantly. I felt completely neutral, then indulgent, until I didn’t. The film confirmed my fear of bathtubs. That somehow you will never get out again. Some people feel like it’s a womb. And afterwards I was crying for the friend I lost. Everyone is wearing hats and I remember when Camden was full of hats you would go to just buy hats, and everyone looked cute and cared about clothes and music in this way that doesn’t seem possible now, wearing a bowler, there are so many ways to be serious now. What do you take from the film with you, having seen two decades compressed and the living room where you can always bounce.  

*

The Long Blondes — Giddy Stratospheres

The Walkman — The Rat

Arcade Fire — Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)

Bleachers feat. Lana Del Rey — Secret Life

Angel Olsen — Gloria

Oneohtrix Point Never, ROSALÍA — Nothing’s Special

Caroline Polachek — Bunny Is A Rider

Porches — Okay 

Sharon Van Etten, Fiona Apple — Love More (By Fiona Apple)

Faye Webster — I Know I’m Funny haha

Le Tigre — Hot Topic

Hole — Softer, Softest

The Sugarcubes — Birthday

Moon Duo — Sevens

St. Vincent — Sugarboy

Billie Eilish — Oxytocin

U.S. Girls — New Age Thriller

Dry Cleaning — Leafy 

Prefab Sprout — I Trawl the Megahertz 

Playlist: April 2021

Last year’s April was a leap year. For every 29th day I summoned to think of the hours as gifted, secret, strength. I spent the actual leap of February in somebody else’s bed, a cherished cliché: cradling sadness, cat-sitting, reading Anne Carson and rolling the word ‘tableaux’ around my stressy mouth, whose hostile environment required twice-daily salt-rinses. On the 29th of last year’s April, I wrote about vermillion and silverware, ‘the lint of your heart’ and hayfever. A friend and I exchanged tips on how to best work from the floor, how to make it your best work. I miss ‘working the floor’ in other senses.

What do you want is not the same as What would you like?

There was a reading group on Lisa Robertson’s The Baudelaire Fractal (2020), and the Zoom chat was elliptical pursuit, a good fuck pendant, fractal kissing and restless deferral. The word besmirch which isn’t a word search.

Those days

I remember cycling long into the hard sun; I recall better eyesight.

Okay, recently. Do you want to hear this? I spent a week of anticipation, languishing with migraines and digestive upsets and the kind of blues where mostly you curl foetally into the fantasy that really you, or this, doesn’t exist. Sip worry coffee and brush the hair, tweeze or shave, sit patiently on top of the abstract, waiting for something lucid to hatch. ‘Opening up’. A weekend bleeding, the minor cramp of womb in Autechre rhythm; then a further week of physical ailment whose primary treatments, according to the lore of reddit, included punching one’s spine, counting to ten, pinching between nose and lip and lying in hot baths. I did not have the baths, which seemed terrible and luxurious given how faint they could make me. I read two books by Samuel Beckett.

In Garments Against Women (2015), Anne Boyer writes that ‘Everyone tries to figure out how to overcome the embarrassment of existing. We embarrass each other with comfort and justice, happiness or infirmity’. It is awkward to smile and to squirm. To be red-faced and faint after a luxury bath. To be found frowning in the Instagram reel of somebody else’s dreaming. To apologise, to dwell upon, to ask for help. To be the one clutching a hot water bottle in the Zoom call; to hide or show this. To sip beer, the migraine coming. To say “hello” from the room next door. To deem something luxury, to partake of it. ‘I have done so much to be ordinary’, writes Boyer, ‘and made a record of this’. Say I learned this month how to paint my nails grape soda, define hypercritique, appreciate the slept-in curls of my hair. 

It is awkward to be unwell, to express this without clear definition. “Sorry it’s all late, I’ve been sick” and to not elaborate on that sickness, the specific ways it kept you up all night, kept you retching or clutching something tight inside yourself which seemed to want to give birth. A stray barb or small contaminant. A numb pill. Transpiration is the process of water movement through a plant and its evaporation from aerial parts. Plants are not awkward; they just grow. Sometimes upwards, sideways; sometimes back inside themselves. Wilt logic. ‘Let’s be happy insofar as we were for a few days not infirm’ (Boyer). The ecstasy of a new morning where the body stretches out, the mind clears and one is ready to work. Who gets these mornings? Can they be traded? Is their delicious ease somehow fungible? What would I give for more of them? Fungus, rot, the fangs of lilies.

Maybe it starts with crisp garments. But pretty soon the neat attainment of day will unbutton. Watch it happen in Lorenzo Thomas’ poem ‘Euphemysticism’: 

Some happily sing
They have joy for white shirts
Singing “O white shirt!”
And that’s just the start

What ecstasy to declare the white shirt! What embarrassment! The chiaroscuro of lily-white shirt against the everyday’s dull shadows, but then showing up ‘baby pictures / Of pollution becoming disaster’ and Thomas’ poem is all about this. Disaster. Headlines, emissions, confusion. And that’s just the start. ‘A man crashes with his shadow’, perhaps because there is no one else. I did this for months on end because nothing else was safe. I could go the long walk for my safe grassy spot and crash there along with my shadow. I crashed in sunshine and rain. Crashland. Why did I bring the lily. It was like being fourteen again and walking for miles just to find a safe, anonymous place to smoke or weep. Sleep crash. ‘In the prickling grass in the afternoon in August, I kept trying to find a place where my blood could rush. That was the obsolete experience of hope’ (Lisa Robertson, XEclogue). It was like staring at the potential of Marlboro Golds tucked behind books and wondering what version of me they belong to. Synecdoche. Rising swirls. The poem burns out but also gets better. Blood rush and screen crash are lyric in pop songs. Sorry my windows. They are getting cleaned today.

Narrate my day again to you.

Thomas’ poem turns to the reader: ‘I’d like to check your influence / Over these ordinarily mysterious things’. The poem takes pictures or talks about it. What is a photographer responsible for? Do they re-enchant or estrange? If someone took a picture at this point or that point, if there was evidence, who would need to be told. How do you photograph pollution? Is this merely witnessing? In the past year and more, I have become witness to my own inability to really see. Disaster itself recedes into medial condition, blood swirls, scratching matter. I think of the way Sibylle Baier sings ‘I grow old’…

Some happily sing the white shirt and are they complacent with their conditions of work? Influence! ‘Desire is a snowscape on a placemat’ (Thomas). I trace its snowy lines in the stray thread of this weave. Ant-sized bloodstain. Am I to be made safe, or eat giant buttons? Put your plate on a place elsewhere and devour the rolling hills. Artificial snow is delicious. Crinkled thread. The white line curls around my tongue like spaghetti. Lila Matsumoto has a poem, ‘Trombone’, about hammering buttons. I unbutton the top three buttons of my blouse to walk around in fifteen degrees, absorbing/zorbing, and call the sunlight oil inside me. 

‘There is a risk inherent in sliding all over the place’ (Boyer). This is what language does. There is a risk in crackle, in static, in the O shape of ‘sorry’ or ‘love’ or ‘alone’. Petition to upgrade for bubble emoji.

Last night, on the train back from another city I had not visited since August, I opened Sarah Bernstein’s new novel, The Coming Bad Days (2021). I did not close this novel again for several hours, except to pass through ticket gates or beyond groups of steaming men whose presence was vaguely threatening. They seemed cardboard cut-outs, stumbling towards me. When a migraine began burning my temples, I took paracetamol and kept walking, reading. When the light became gloam I walked faster. When I got home I sat at the table and opened the book again, like a schoolchild eager to begin their homework (as a ticket to freedom) or revisit a dream. It is risky to write about something you finished barely twelve hours ago. It’s embarrassing, the way talking about illness is, or happiness. To gush. You risk offering a raw piece of thought. Something has stuck to you and you are trying to convey the exact, impossible, vicious way in which you are changed by it. Still steaming.

This is what I understand by gorgeousness. As in, I gorged on it. 

In the book’s last third occurs a fabular moment. The narrator is often telling their inner life through external surroundings — textures and fluctuations of weather. This is also to tell disaster. It is not the dramatic crash so much as a slow, implacable violence whose consequence ripples below and above the surface of our lives. Sometimes there is rupture: a cyclist is hit by a motorist, a storm occurs, an unspecified act of harm is committed, a life-changing conversation alluded to. But so much is in the insidious atmospheres which turn between dream and reality, which refuse to be nailed to the moment: 

I dreamt of a landscape, overgrown grass, trees blanketing a hillside, leafy canopies moving against the sky, a deep river bisecting the scene. Fat berries pulling on their stems, apples weighing down their branches. Then a breeze came through with a slow hiss, and I knew it carried poison on its back. Here was a green abundance that I could not eat, a cold stream from which I could not drink. Take care, a voice said. Take care to call things by their names. 

(Bernstein, The Coming Bad Days)

In this Edenic scene of harvest and green abundance, nothing is properly named. The landscape is unspecified, generic, anywhere. The voice belongs to anyone. It could be a serpent, a god, an angel, a person. Unlike Adam, the narrator cannot name things in nature. It is not their purpose. They came to Eden in dreams and after the fall. What fruits of knowledge exist are overripe and almost a burden to their branches and vines. In addition to the biblical resonance, this passage recalled for me the fig tree motif in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar (1963),the poison tree of William Blake’s poem from Songs of Experience (1794). Wrath is in the air, and failure. I want to wrap around the passage like a kind of vine. Hold and be held in it. Is language a kind of taking care? A watering cruelty? What are the ecological arts of attention and tending to, towards, against? 

I was struck by the possibility that Bernstein’s narrator embodied the abject and porous, slow and injured thought of an anthropocenic subject. This statement feels inevitable. The only abundance they could conjure was unconscious and laced with ‘poison’. It could not be imbibed; was not nourishing. But somehow such dreams nourish the text. For all its depiction of coldness, cruelty and the failure of communication, the cold stream of suffering, the weathering of Bernstein’s lyric prose effects a possible intimacy. Weathering, for Astrida Neimanis and Jennifer Mae Hamilton, ‘names a practice or a tactic: to weather means to pay attention to how bodies and places respond to weather-worlds which they are also making’. I think of the narrator skittishly eating cheese sandwiches at the window of their office, every single day of the week. I eat this sandwich with them. What is it they see? Each iterative mention of the weather reminds us that the social and interpersonal dramas of the novel are part of the medial, immersive or remote dramas of climate. The agential presence of rain, frost, clouds and fog, the turn of the waves, the ‘glistening violet evenings’: it’s more than metaphor. It sinks into the prickling skin of Bernstein’s language. Maybe you’d want to call this a weathering realism. 

This novel seized me to read with compulsion, the way a dream does come and the writing of the dream is luxuriance that only later you bathe in. Not quite vulnerable or resilient. Responsive. Exposed to something. 

On the 28th April 2019 (no entry for the 29th), I wrote in purple ink: 

We would do better to sleep now, I have been sleeping much better and trying to resist the pull of insomnia, trying to perfect a monologue. What comes and goes in a dream without noticing, whose handwriting on the sun you recognised chancing your luck with yellow corn and fields of trials against sensitive, colours of smear and floral obstacle. Hyperboreal data flow into the crinkle cut futurity. Applying for latitude, acid. 

Not sure about ‘we’: did I mean the ‘we’ of me reading back, and the ‘me’ who was writing, there in the moment? Are you also included, reading this passage over one of my shoulders? Can we take care to name things in dreams? But when I dream of people — friends, loved-ones, family, colleagues the famous — as I often do, what happens when I write their names? Am I opening them up to something that could harm or exhaust them? Is their presence a giving over of energy? Am I to be persecuted by the purple, anonymous flower of somebody’s need? What if I didn’t even know? What if the mark-making of initials was key? Will it bloom or wilt?

Go back to sleep in the forest, soft cosmos of dissolving forms. 

There is a sense of missing someone that grows an acorn in your belly. It hardens and rattles with new life. It burns out of place. Leaves you with a feeling of placelessness. Impregnates every word with the possible, the fizzy wake, the fear and hurt. Makes you grow sideways. Hey. To exist in no-time of not knowing when the feeling comes. Pastel vests are back in fashion. Pull over. Kisses. Rarest flower emoji that doesn’t exist. To be sometimes well and other times racked in a well-documented madness that pays various attention to weather. Something painful. A few days of goodness seized. I would leap out the door, do 15,000 steps each day; so I would name the colour chartreuse when I saw it. Watching for changing bone structures in Zoom tiles. Your hair grown long and lemon blonde. My internet broke for a whole day and night. I felt old-timey in the pdf archive. Phoned you.

~

Bebby Doll – Weeks 

Ana Roxanne – I’m Every Sparkling Woman

Zoee – Microwave

Cowgirl Clue – Cherry Jubilee

Laurel Halo – Sun to Solar 

trayer tryon, Julie Byrne – new forever

Life Without Buildings – Sorrow 

Cocteau Twins – My Truth

Kelsey Lu, Yves Tumor, Kelly Moran, Moses Boyd, ‘let all the poisons that lurk in the mud seep out’

Iceage – Gold City

Le Tigre – Deceptacon

FKA twigs, Headie One, Fred again.. – Don’t Judge Me

Porridge Radio – Wet Road

Angel Olsen – Alive and Dying (Waving, Smiling)

Big Thief – Off You 

Perfume Genius – Valley 

Grouper – Poison Tree

Sonic Youth – Providence 

U.S. Maple – The State Is Bad

Sky Ferreira – Sad Dream

Waxahatchee – Fruits of My Labor (Lucinda Williams cover)

The Felice Brothers – Inferno

Bright Eyes – Train Under Water 

Weyes Blood – Titanic Risen

Lucinda Williams – Save Yourself (Sharon Van Etten cover) 

Playlist: September 2020

Darklands

what if she entered  
the sliver of morning and haemorrhage
left for her

on the rooftop, signal
that someone was still coming in caustic shoes

theorising a free continuation 
of handsome disorder, to access the paywall
and free us from pain 

she could breathe here, just 

to feel like getting trains, filming herself 
speak only to speed 
and lag

in practice of relative motion, to feel it

“how all the protests ceased”
but not to look 
was to watch the hard tomatoes soften from green
and the weight 

to glow awhile, orange
and I miss

a strategy of oratory whereby someone has a line 
from beautiful afternoon television, like
“who would buy this house?” 
as if there were choices

next to the undiscovered 
shaven lawn

*

I’ve been having dreams about family
and scaffolds

how she just lay there
literally
until the child began throwing soft toys at her
in the 1990s 

anyone could come to life and be numb

I want to read Graeber’s thesis on magic,
slavery and politics

she didn’t say to me

do you ever feel free, for instance
in fugue state when brushing your teeth 

I’ve been dreaming about ancestors
stuck on trains 
killing rabbits and eating crackers
it was that easy

all season 
complaint of what’s coming, knowing nothing
of photography

when you can’t measure the wind 
by the grass

she had this enormous laughter 

*

dwindling into ambivalence
if this isn’t a dream exposure

and we can’t enter houses

I’ve been trialling sentences, Bernadette Mayer says 
I’m not faulting being periodic but sentences with caps and end marks do seem so bloodless to me

You swing gazelle legs over the actual
You wait in the room for the wine
You pull collectives out of the sink

distracted, I watch through windows
turn on my flash
to lead workshops on trash 
and poetry as finance, like
eons of speculation 
had brought us to nothing but numbers

and the anxious among us, cooking the numbers

I watch her slice an avocado in the dark
and the police van
opened to reveal us
with leaves in our molars, perfect hello
it’s autumn

in the bloodless sentence

dreamt I was tidying the rooms
of siblings

this mad kind of everywhere acid 
I couldn’t clean up 

in the panic of rich, linguistic Monday, you are 
part of the story, too smart for me

the interminable smell of pine resin, kimchi
and menthol gum
yes, just there

in lightness rimming

I made this commitment to sleeping ‘upstairs’

taking pleasure
on my editor’s credit
before the treehouse snapped

*

I can barely listen to music anymore
it’s all error

describing her pain as shooting

when I smashed my thumbs in my eyes
you kept going
it was Jupiter

now

cruising down Alexandra Parade to send you 
the voice message 
of not seeing nightingales, a bathtub
attached to a car
I wish I could touch
between times is when I most feel ‘we
exist’ and just like that
the cornflowers won’t die

and we can’t enter houses

and you end 
with the fresh heat of illusory commute

I could say anything new

in dumb, erotic anonymity 
where all this falls

*

she had lit up the sad remains
of the tree

bound to other seasons, even look good

despite not hearing this live
I like it, finally
summer light on the same

even if we live 

in adrenalised versions of trying to keep warm
on the video call
or wavelength

of audit continuum

she was all 
“it is up to the unassuming […]
to represent reality” 
in The New York Times

and the well-oiled loss of taste

feels the same 
the shadow

years of tax avoidance
edible sundown

*

what if she knew before all of us
doubled in running away with me

I dream all my friends 
attending the burning

“where have you been”

and you could put this to archive

swipe left for the hidden
indentation of nothing happening

20,000 years ago

mostly I worry if she lived in the dream
I had to wake from 

cradling the ersatz animal, sprigs of rosemary 

having clambered reality over again
and knowing you survived the scaffold
GESTURES FOR LIVING AIR
as the art was told
“I just need to check
your temperature” 
a rough kind of festival kiss
that was listening

in the underpasses of everything
prior to millennium 

installs a magical feeling that 
:heart:
you would be at the station

and my bouquet emoji of blood
flowers await.

💐

Fenne Lily – Solipsism

Sylvan Esso – Ring

Gus Dapperton – I’m Just Snacking

Sufjan Stevens – Run Away With Me

Fleet Foxes – I’m Not My Season

Chastity Belt – Ann’s Jam

The Durutti Column – Sketch for Summer

Frog – Photograph

Adrienne Lenker – anything

Tim Heidecker, Weyes Blood – Oh How We Drift Away

Bill Callahan – Sycamore

Gillian Welch – Picasso

Margo Guryan – Why Do I Cry

Norma Tanega – You’re Dead

Elliott Smith – Speed Trials

Kath Bloom, Loren Connors – Tall Grass

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Darklands

Alice Boman – Heartbeat

Edwin Organ – Self Alarm

Broadcast – Echo’s Answer

Cocteau Twins – Aloysius

Yo La Tengo – Bleeding

Perfume Genius – Valley

William Basinski – Tear Vial

Oneohtrix Point Never – Long Road Home

Playlist: August 2020

Patiency challenges the body’s borders, the fantasy of which converges with a policing function. This means reimagining the body as process without a centre, not a discrete biological or social fact, but an untotalisable set of relations, the body not as a static object, but as the ek-static convergence of processes always in excess of themselves

(Rob Halpern, Weak Link). 

Patiency: ‘to do with the body as a situation of suspended agency and disabused mastery. If this illusion of mastery is a privileged delusion, then patiency is its refusal’. Halpern gives the example of Ban, in Bhanu Kapil’s Ban en Banlieu (2015), who ‘lies down on the street in the opening scene of a riot’. So begins the novel and another historical opening. Patiency might be, I am heckled on the subway and so I lay down in the aisle. Or is that too much of a spectacle? It might be that I is not-I, just as ‘love is not love / When it’s a coathanger / A borrowed line or passenger’. We do patiency differently. So love that is love provides more than suspension or structure; it isn’t the person sitting beside you or even the vehicle. Limerence on a borrowed line. So things are thrown. I am lying down in the middle of lockdown, which feels like ‘response’ as such. In these casual Zoom calls, these meetings, it is like “Oh, well I spent that day lying on my floor, sorry.” I stop saying “just lying on my floor” since, over time, lying on the floor seems adequate. Almost, to a certain thought. We used to call these sad naps and could take them at work, for instance, with head resting on folded hands, or perhaps in the little vinyl benches round the corner of the bar, under the picture of Dylan and the roses, and the painting with the cut-away eyes, whose market value would astound us. When I say I lay down in the middle of a global pandemic, who am I kidding? Sometimes I turn off my webcam and lie down with my eyes closed, still keep talking. 

I google ek-static and find a meaning for ecstasy, ekstasis: ek (out) and stasis (a stand, or a standoff of forces). So an experience of ekstasis comprises, as Alexander Riley puts it, ‘extraordinary situations in which one stands, temporarily, outside the normal interactional world in an existential frame of peculiar intensity and effervescence’. There was a night in lockdown I bumped into a friend and we walked along the river, bordered the parking lots of the broadcast buildings, looked at the false lights reflected in stout-dark water until I finally looked up and saw the huge harvest moon. This hour or so outside of the otherwise confinements of lockdown had felt ekstatic — for I was outside, on the edge of the river. I was talking again, for real and wheels were turning. Words, however everyday, had their electric shocks. But was this an extraordinary situation, this encounter? Context matters. 

Types of lockdown ~ekstasis: 

  • Zoom calls till dawn
  • Recorded poems
  • Voices, hear say yes
  • The word haecceity 
  • Streets without vehicles
  • The first day I discovered the meadow
  • Golden hour
  • Bluebells, daffodils, cornflowers 
  • The innocent coughs of strangers in readings from a pre-covid world, if such a thing once existed
  • One infinite tin in the park with you
  • Oil pastel under my nails
  • St John’s Wort capsules
  • Parcel arrivals
  • Applause on the recording from 2004 
  • Misplaced pastoral (nostalgia) inside a sleep 
  • When we didn’t know which window the birdsong belonged to
  • Coffee, five times a week
  • ‘Like a cat can / See things out of order’ (Lucy Ives, ‘Picture’)
  • Soft sound twilight of notification 
  • Gentle ASMR of the rain
  • Tree climb
  • Carousels of apophenia 
  • The canal, the river

There’s a song that goes, all that I have is a river’ and I remember it from more than a movie. An undergraduate, alone in my small room I was watching this video of a young Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling just sing this together and I thought it was an old song, oldest, the kind of thing you can only think when adolescence still is you. Almost ten years have passed since then. Ten long summers, more like winters…What a gift to forgo all but the river, to be young enough to possess nothing, cover it, or to let go for the water and what it carries. For you know everything is a new current is not even new, it was streaming before and now it is catching. And you let yourself into it or you don’t. You walk into, you walk by the river. You are carried, supine. Patiency.

I skirt the river in lockdown because it is a motion of passing when nothing else does except spirits and bodies, and the days are leaf, they are like easy to peel from the calendar, people are always saying O how the time passes, but into what? Time passes with you, otherwise I am waiting. The song that appeared in a search result. With you am I writing. ‘Dreaming is the best kind of waiting: it overcomes nothing, it does not try to separate itself from what it wants, from everything it wants. Dreaming just begins’ writes Sarah Wood, in 2007, which was a year I learned to starve myself among eons of bad indie. So I would dream hard instead; it was like whittling reality down to return to those childhood imaginaries whose nourishment was almost endless. To be almost endless, and good. It was the year before recession and so I had not learned the societal imperative towards ‘hope’. ‘If Hope can find oxygen, it will’, writes Lena Andersson at the end of her novel, Wilful Disregard (2013), ‘Starvation rations do not help […]. The supply of nourishment must be completely cut off’. You learn to breathe different air; you have to. Oh the rain really came today, I feel like saying / or send you a video. Told to have hope or having hope is different from living towards it. Soft falling hope was not that. In a 2019 discussion with Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says, 

I learned that hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create, with your actions. Hope is something you have to manifest into the world, and once one person has hope, it can be contagious. Other people start acting in a way that has more hope.

I’ve had it with viral metaphors, in the sense that I live in the era of post-viral fatigue and my body is sick with the carriage, ‘but I can’t stop expanding with currents convulsive’ (Halpern, Weak Link). Lana sang ‘Hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have’ and the question became less about hope and more about that ‘like me’, a little hinge. I identified with a neighbourly extravagance, hydrangeas, pale blue-lilac from a middling soil; I left the gate slightly open, I smoked in the rain. The danger was in hope without architecture, so a ghost came in. Hope requires a manifest scaffold, perhaps. Weather that rails against it. The trace effects of a fire, of dream languor, particle physics. It was in the sentences we erected, passed on, hammered in, lifted and lay still, remembered…‘my present tense contracting the way love contracts me to the future from whose point of view this will have not been terminal’ (Halpern). The person on the Zoom call, PST, said to say goodbye, If you’re in California, don’t leave your house, there’s smoke out there. Stay healthy. Hope needs to be more than just ‘in the pipeline’. Maybe we need to blow up the pipeline.

2007. I lived in the years of ambient war. Later, too young, I would attempt to read Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials (2008) and dream about pools of oil filling the end of my bed, like a menstrual stain. At school, we wrote essays in which we had to pick a side: for or against? The Iraq War, vegetarianism, a bypass for our town, surveillance capitalism? I could only think of deserts, not arguments; I wondered what secret plant could stem blood flow from a wound. I rarely watched television. In super rural mornings, December, the air smelled of engine oil, woodsmoke, fertiliser. Shit and snow. Something to-come that never was passing. I felt sanguine, calm without compare, sipping vodka + cokes against gym blocks. Back then, clouds were irrelevant. Instead, I scrolled the internet for answers and images. ‘That hope is just another bloated moat / is worth the ringworm, is it really so cute’ writes Nikki Wallschlaeger in Crawlspace (2017). Thinking in Sianne Ngai’s terms, is this ‘so cute’ ‘a sensuous quality or appearance’, or ‘a feeling-based evaluation or speech act’ (Our Aesthetic Categories). It’s cute that you dreamt it. The ringworm I mean, another parasite. So you circle in medias res, nibble a little of that time, but I thought I could jump the moat into future. Future was just a quality, like cute. Is it really so cute? The tiny things and changes. billie eilish in her video for ‘my future’ looks pretty cute, but it’s more than that. The soft falling rain would fill up the moat, the river, the lake. The dream was a body of water again. Speech fell upon us, fluid, then telling the nude and lime-before-lilac sensation. Something that gets inside us; a tooth around your neck, and pain. 

Dreaming just begins. Derrida is beginning his lecture on Joyce, ‘Ulysses Gramophone’, with the signature of a date. This feels arbitrary enough – a date in lieu of a site specific. I would send letters in lockdown for the sake of sending a date. It was an act of patiency, a claim against time that could turn it inside out, let somebody else pop the bubblewrap for you. 

I was looking for postcards that would show Japanese lakes, or let’s call them inland seas. It had crossed my mind to follow the edges of lakes in Ulysses, to venture out on a grand lakeside tour between the lake of life which is the Mediterranean Sea and the Lacus Mortis referred to in the hospital scene, as it happens, and dominated by the symbol of the mother […]. You will no doubt know better than I that the whole pack of postcards perhaps hints at the hypothesis that the geography of Ulysses’ trips around the Mediterranean lake could have the structure of a postcard or a cartography of postal dispatches. 

(Derrida, ‘Ulysses Gramophone’)

The difference between the lake and the sea, is it tidal? Say I wrote to you by a general lunar insurrection: I refuse to be governed by hormones alone. I am lapped, turned over, the hours are upon me in wavelets. For a long time, months, the word ‘hospital’ also conjured ‘field’, and ‘crisis’, and ‘overstretched’, ‘overburdened’. Many fled cities to avoid this. What would a postcard from the pandemic look like? This sounds like the afterthought of a conference happening years from now. Send a postcard to your future self! I would rather dwell awhile in the mystical, sub bass pastoral of a common place that is billie’s future. The transparent dew in the process of dropping, clearest blue. But it was also the artist’s imperative, mid-March, to say something. To who? A postcard can be read by anyone, if they get their fingers on the mail, if they would risk that trace or touch. 

You could circle the drain, if not the lake, like in the video where Soccer Mommy is at Palm Springs Surf Club and conjures an existential state by the weather: ‘I wanna be calm like the soft / Summer rain on your back / Like the fall of your shoulders’. A desert gets cold at night; its ochres turned deep into cobalt. What happens in the turn of those lines is the fall of rain is a bodily gesture, the fall of your shoulders. Like sigh before sleep or hold me. Both kinds of soft between element and form are just memory’s fall, and a longing that is ambient and prolonged like those four hour looped videos where the song is slowed down and rain sounds are added. Its weird twist is dark ecological: I love and you as the other with your shoulders, their fall, I love I am rain old rain we are just that falling or were. There is a sense, if vague, of when it happened, of summer. Somewhere. I would send a postcard with those lines and make a cliché of the feeling. Clichés are like rain; they fall all around us and that too is cliché. In London I learned to long for the rain. 

My trips around the Surf Club, is that a name for this desert, some place out and aching, are not knowing what I’m looking for, the lake of life or death. There was a body of unknowable time at the beginning of pandemic that felt like a lake, a dark one with monsters inside it. You were scared to touch. The virus was a hyperobject and it lived in the lake and became us. So I thought what it meant to carry the lake. Like if you could tie it to your Kanken and drag the lake on a walk every day, make it lose weight. Could you test the lake, dump chemicals in it, starve it, piss in it? Was this abuse? My poor lake, resting at the edge of the desert. The lake was too much: overstretched, overburdened. Eventually I would bathe in it, but that was July, just before a morning of rain and the fall of your shoulders / brush back hair. Aeolian breath above the lake.

A thought crossed Derrida’s mind ‘to follow the edges of lakes’ in a novel. A very long novel but only a day. Sometimes we say ‘it feels Mediterranean’ and is it a warm breeze off the sea, a quality of something vermillion splashed against turquoise? Like Dorothea Lasky (if I remember her essay on colour correctly, perhaps there is a colourblindness to memory) I always loved that combination. But it grew too much and mostly I stopped painting in those colours. Can there be too much blue in your life? We compare eye colour on Zoom and there is what, somethingsomething pixelation of the soul, which is almost good, is it. The inland sea of WhatsApp green, or the rising tides of Facebook blue. An irritant gets into the ocean. This is how a pearl is formed, and we worry it into August. 

August: the commonplace between seasons. What was formerly meant by holiday. Halpern’s weak link is something about tendency, which is a quality of patiency, surely:

[——] = a common place we can’t sense, but upon which all we perceive depends

In the book, the double em-dash is more than that, because there is no gap in the line. I don’t know how to recreate that here. Rachel Blau DuPlessis often uses the commonplace of a line, this continuity, asking questions like 

Did these years have to happen
the way they did?______________

______________. The poem, unwritten
is concealed by the poem,

written.

(Surge: Drafts 96-114)

This is from a poem called ‘Draft 100: Gap’. I feel urged to fill in the blanks, but then suddenly don’t. Mind the gap? I am mindful of my tendency to make lines into rivers. This is a temporal effect: ‘The body of water a particular time of day resembles’, writes Lucy Ives in ‘Catalogue’, not answering the proposition except to parenthesise ‘candida’ in brackets (). Parasites again. You can’t starve them so much as you must cut off the oxygen altogether. They want sugar! Like rubbing words out of your poem is a kind of excision necessary to let the reader in: an exchange of space. But is a blank also a body of water? Let us lie down in the blanks, one or more acts of patiency. The edge of my body at the edge of the lake, which was almost erased, became two-dimensional. Was it the politicians who did this, or the semioticians? Surge, surge, surge…

Without touch, I could not plunge into the body of water for several months. Returning was two-sided, flickering. It was turning the river to a mobius strip. The river that led to the lake? No pictures were taken, but words were written…

The other’s body was divided: on one side, the body proper—skin, eyes—tender, warm; and on the other side, the voice—abrupt, reserved, subject to fits of remoteness, a voice which did not give what the body gave. Or further: on one side, the soft, warm, downy, adorable body, and on the other, the ringing, well-formed, worldly voice—always the voice.    

(Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse)

In his telegraphic dashes, Barthes evokes the voice on the line, between lines, electric crackle. I am on the end of a telephone listening to what I thought was rain but was only white noise or the manifest difference of space between us. For once, not time; though still there was time between us, before which we could meet. The body could always give more, which is why Derrida would venture the IRL lakes to follow a postal cartography. Here where I received this text, sparkle emoji, a picture of sunset forgetting I’d sent… But what if the voice became a body in tender distance? A kind of tendering in itself? If it was all we had of those months, and could cradle ourselves to sleep in it…

We look back on the years that are happening and wonder if they ‘have’ to happen this way. There are divisions, revisions; something that gives and receives. A year is impossible. The depth of a lake without measure. I could not tie it to my horse and ride away. Salt and sweet. The difference between lake and inland sea depended on your idea of ‘freshness’, but in Cancer season I delved in the water. We called it a loch, though named it was ‘Lake’. Always the voice / settles cool on the water. 

Down becomes a colour. Peach stuck, clouded. A snapshot from my enviro-diary in spring: 

I realised there had to be exits from ‘lavender country’, even if I felt implicated in the earth forever. What had I otherwise written of the wild mountain thyme, the purple heather. I had. 

What Andersson wrote of hope, ‘If Hope can find oxygen, it will’ recalls Angel Olsen’s song, ‘If It’s Alive, It Will’ and you can’t help thinking about the ‘it’. This thin word of the thing itself. Love? The song, the poem? ‘My friend you are unique but not always / Some stranger in the well has surely felt your pain […] And all the things you’ve once said / Your thoughts exist in someone else’s head’. So we are parasites of a mutual speech, second body, patiency. It’s going on elsewhere,, echo,, echo. I saw the police queuing for pizza. I saw mothers outside supermarkets, I saw masks trampled into the towpath. I saw your breath left a mark on the bathroom mirror. If anything is taught now it is that pain is not unique in its total uniqueness. It is also a misting — these noticing moments like the colour of your eyes on webcam, or when I saw a friend by the river or the cygnets when they were still small, and charcoal. Touch, know that we live. ‘A moment of affirmation; for a certain time, though a finite one, a deranged interval, something has been successful’ (Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse). The weak link ( — ) of ‘a common place we can’t sense, but upon which all we perceive depends’ (Halpern). The more we send, the more links accumulate. This is not some metaphor leading into Connell’s chain, or the blockchain, the chain of being or food chain, but something like when I recently went to visit my Nan for the first time in nearly two years I saw she was wearing the gold chain I remembered. It remains a ghost fact against my clavicle. Gilded, some arterial link between times, the artefact worn of all years, not mine.

And did that path or the other
lead anywhere?_________________?

________________? The other 
side of words_______________.

(Blau DuPlessis, Surge: Drafts 96-114)

A path can be dangerous, like hope. So I see it not as a route so much as this mark of the common place, where you enter the poem. Echo. It is not so much I who is writing. Someone is pouring clementine fizz into the glassware someone else will inherit. An embrace is made possible because of this. If it’s alive, it will. The other side of words or the strangers in the well you threw a coin into. I was always wishing on fountains. Could I eavesdrop on what went on inside your sleep? It was trouble enough to listen to mine. Quiet plash. Your breath like the ocean beside me, etc. 

Hope and not-hope. I am obsessed with this passage from Verity Spott’s forthcoming Hopelessness (2020). ‘I hope. You hope’, she writes:

‘I wondered if it was enough to extract a sentence and hope something would ramify from there, like crystal’, writes Brian Dillon in Suppose a Sentence (2020). That word ‘hope’ again! To put faith in the art of essaying, you manifest from the sentence, say. But isn’t extraction bad? Verity writes an incredible sentence. Love contracts, there is a terminus, there is no harbour, is it that thoughts overfall or flow before water. There are strange moments where you fall into iambic rhythm, ‘would shrink like necks passed out’ and find yourself taking perverse pleasure in the pulse of that action, complicit. I fell asleep at the desk, put a crick in my neck. If Verity’s sentence is a crystal it is so splintering hot that to hold it I had already thrown it towards you like catch and here we are passing those lines between each other like ouch! or whoosh! as it goes through the air then starts to stream — is it light or water that sprays off the sentence, falling or lifting we get it back up we get going again, so being itself is contingent, there is a feeling of tilting, just touching between something like what Adrienne Lenker sings in ‘Mary’ — a most verbose song with the lines the lines the lines like fractals, repeats, alliterative, the rhymes inside it — ‘The violent tenderness / The sweetest silence / The clay you find is fortified / We felt unfocused fade the line’, it’s a blur then, even if the object is hard, ‘my vested shot’ like bullets are thoughts, ‘get fucked’ (a reminder that we die or desire, no, we could be ejected by the speaker, why not), leave holds inside us and the ullulation maybe of lift/leak/blink/light/love/cryssalis/live/like/laugh/will, hear the undersong packed inside the block, LA LA LA LA CAN I HEAR YOU? to put this in the kiln of language and wait, tender, splintered political speech is the romantic filibuster of ‘on and on and on and on’ worn in a ring without rose, lust, health, being messed up by time and order, ‘and change not come it not does come to who those wait’ as if to be the subject doing object to the thing itself, no is that not right, I’m in the stream of it, ‘where else’, ‘that change’, well I feel gentle to read this to you aloud and think poetry is it never could smile like lift this up what’s underneath, ‘screaching night’ of fizzy things in vessels, ‘pouring thoughts I made them up, so what’, a fall of your shoulders, softly, who cares, ‘wry out’ did I twist that humour is lyric always sincere, I care (?) is it the very empowerment or dressage of the poem that makes it ‘shot’, tongue tangled, get shot, ‘hurt the air’, ‘get fucked’, I love you, whole world is metamorphosis. It’s for love or dream or death, ‘if you fall great down’ a white-hot crystal. Stammering light of I love you. So keep repeating the sentence forever it’s the estuary (ex)change in my head where the diamond melted; I go out like a river, a light, it’s so many; I lift crisp, iridescent leaf to find you in process…‘scarless along the rib, as if to say’ (Halpern). Small wet thing w/ almost wings. ‘Soon come’ is a charm I have held all summer, ‘Where goes? I guess’ / the flight, the train, the swim, the breath… 

According to my diary, in 2020 I had nineteen dreams about breath. These are some:

but maybe this is a lesson in being able to let go and breathe deep and keep going, rather than hinge on another lag. Oh hinge is another app right, maybe I should get that. 

 I started to do long deep breaths.

I would come out in the breaks to breathe fresh air among the tumbling ivy. My aching head, my burned-out lungs. I eat too much!

A lavender girl with this expensive complexion and a close-shaved head was underwater for a very long time and when she bobbed to the surface, numb and curled in the foetal position, she moaned something about “I wanted to give up my breath”. And we realised this was the currency of all these submersions: losing your breath. There were many people doing it, just bobbing to die in the water. 

I don’t have a shortness of breath or any particular fever beyond what you usually wake up to after too much sugar

Last night at four in the morning I finished A Breath of Life in a sort of tired rapture, still very awake, leaning back into my eyes and my soul a while, the sense that it might go on forever, whatever ‘it’ is, cross-referenced of course with Àgua Viva

Started to have trouble breathing, a sort of slanted weight on my chest. I guess sometimes I suffer from very minor sleep apnoea, like the Beach Fossils song

Disorientating to wake up from a dream with so many people, almost like I couldn’t breathe, my heart was racing, I had to pull off my jumper

I feel this pressure, like I won’t be able to breathe and I won’t. In the dream I was between two tribes and there were guns I suppose, other weapons. Loosely I was in love with someone on the wrong side and so my loyalties were confused and I knew my life was at stake, the others having pressed knives to my throat to warn me, given me a bracelet I knew contained a location tag. I want to be dazzled by leaves and tiny pieces of unmentionable silver.

She went away and I was sort of left in this state of zero energy, desperately trying to gather up selected marbles to give out to whoever was still left in the boarding house. And then I sort of dried up, paralysed, barely able to breathe. 

 A few people joked about moshing. I miss the rupture of something going shoulder to shoulder. I miss the general blaze of sweat. How is it to breathe in a basement.

I want to feel like the blanks between dreams, ekstatic spaces between sleep (fall asleep to yr voice again), are bodies of water. Àgua Viva: running water, fresh water; variously translated as stream of life. Another writer who wields the dash, flies on the line, which is also the spray, the beam of light, is of course Clarice Lispector: 

Today I finished the canvas I told you about: curves that intersect in fine black lines, and you, with your habit of wanting to know why—I’m not interested in that, the cause is past matter—will ask me why the fine black lines? because of the same secret that now makes me write as if to you, writing something round and rolled up and warm, but sometimes cold as the fresh instants, the water of an ever-trembling stream. Can what I painted on this canvas be put into words? Just as the silent word can be suggested by a musical sound.  

(Àgua Viva, trans. by Benjamin Moser)

Who is she talking to, writing to? The fine black lines of moth wings draw up a thought. It is a cashmere reality and I am tugged at the holes. In the subjunctive, only ‘as if’ writing to you; she can preserve the stream, the weave, the cold splash of secrets. This is only towards the act of communication itself. All works of ekphrasis, all spirals of daylight, all times I turned on the tap and for what? Could I wash myself back into a blank, or what luxury to preserve in the mud on my shins, the marks of ink up my arms, mascara’d tears around my eyes, the blood running down the inside of my thighs? In the water, it would all run into trembling lines, purple blur, it would circle the drain, would never stop————————————

~

MUNA – It’s Gonna Be Okay, Baby

Tim Heidecker feat. Weyes Blood – Fear of Death

Lens Mozer – All My Friends

Disq – I Know What It’s Like

Martha Ffion – Nights to Forget

FKA twigs – Water Me

The 1975 – Frail State of Mind

The Kundalini Genie – Can’t Get You Out My Mind

Bright Eyes – Just Once in the World

Lucinda Williams – Overtime

Joan Baez – North Country Blues

Elliott Smith – Pitseleh

Sia – Breathe Me

Bloc Party – Biko 

John Prine – Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)

Joanna Sternberg – Nothing Makes My Heart Sing

Big Thief – Mary

Angel Olsen – Waving, Smiling

Sarah Davachi – Play the Ghost

Tomberlin – Wasted 

billie eilish – my future 

Yo La Tengo – Nowhere Near 

La Force – You Amaze Me

A.G. Cook – Crimson and Clover (cover)

DJ Shadow – Midnight in a Perfect World

Playlist: April 2020

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April, the quarantined month is sweet. Not cruellest, for that would be February. What is the human capacity for crying exactly? I had cried all 28 days to water the snowdrops, saved the 29th for one great, acidic cry of my life.

April, I dreamt you had leapt from the hole in my head / and the hole in my head from the length of your light.

April, we name our sadnesses arbitrarily. The sadness is a euphemism for what we are tired of saying, and even saying ‘these times’, and even saying the strangeness. To live in the sadness or strangeness, say

April, a shattering epiphany that I still

April, my kindest regards.

April, the dying narcissi.

April, I never signed on to be locked indoors, never signed on for these losses or debts. Never signed on for these sadnesses and yet they are happening, belonging to someone in pain upstairs, lending a movie, tending a wage.

April, the sadness of paragraphs.

April, I watch you teach at a distance, blue-dimming with cans of juice.

April, The Baudelaire Fractal.

April, the pedagogy of longing. I lose dull words. I teach myself not to need you. I learn to need the living itself. Lil Peep screams in my ear, ISN’T LIFE BEAUTIFUL / I THINK THAT LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. This is a kind of instruction.

April, the sarcasm of flowers.

April, I walk in the underpass reading the red paint, Make the rich pay. The president is everywhere and nowhere, confected aleatory; a bad rhizome, the president has bleached his words. Tap root political, it can’t get out. The water doesn’t flow here. There’s lead, but no leader.

April, I found a Jason Molina lyric buried in a poem by Peter Gizzi. I had been writing about the undersong but this was ‘Oversong’, the verb ‘to be’ eclipsing ‘me’.

April, I wander the lonely rhubarb clouds, an hour or so. The world on edge.

April, there’s lead in the water.

April, I would polish your cutlery.

April, someone on the radio is defending his advice on a bleachy digest.

April, say hi to Angela for me.

April, where are your showers?

April, what would I ask of your showers?

April, the poems. Mary Ruefle filling the 22nd with sunflower hearts, or was it her friend, ‘Please Read’. How I misread wilted for waited, waited for wilted. Seeds of words. How I knew nothing about the orange blossom excepting its smell, which I drunk so hard, not knowing the name but only how passing a top-note I wanted it all perfumed within me. This form of quietness akin to heat or light. Who would design this, and all that beauty.

April, the air is cherried with synonyms. You spit out the coolest noun for this.

April, I eat breakfast at six in the evening.

April, you are teasing me with readings and the old response; I have no ability. My year folds back into last, remembering the burn in my stomach, wanting to get there fast and slow, the scenery seen from a train. Manchester blossoms before Glasgow and the song about the orange room, the pinks in the street, the wondering. I did not know then that I would take you, carry a little seed in me.

April, I have so little to say.

April, sprained ankles.

April, the canal is glistening at dusk.

April, the supercut / us.

April, in these uncertain times, you are the discount. Please let me out for a walk, on all things said, the passing around of a line.

April, James Schuyler remembered you to a French pear and the sulphur-yellow bees. I was nostalgic also, pollinating the document with all my normals. What difference it made. They said a world.

April, the pollen set free.

April, the edge of the world is grey.

April, the sunlight’s adultery.

April, what sex?

April, fuck you, that was yesterday.

April, I’m reading Lee Harwood again for the sea that I miss. Infinite sea that I miss.

April, I want to run down the slope of the universe and think a single intelligent thought.

April, they are absolute units.

April, the rivers are so low I’m starting to think ‘they’ need sertraline. Sweet relief of the rain.

April, fuck it I love you.

April, it’s always somebody’s birthday and now they’re blowing out candles on Zoom.

April, you buy me groceries.

April, I’m starting to think I once met a girl called April. She wore her hair in elaborate braids, and the kirby grips shone in the sun the one day in July when I ate ice lollies by the fountain at the end of all I remember. The roses were over-watered, all colours of the sun. Generous, redundant, you tossed in bank notes to wish this was over.

April, Lee says ‘her beauty undresses       the sea’. You picture that, the flicker where the dress is the same as the blue as she is the sea.

April, I wear blue and roll myself out where the sun would set.

April, I can’t stop quoting Clarice.

April, I want somebody else’s salt.

April, the pink moon, the Lyrid meteors.

April, there’s something I want to delete.

April, I was crying for the violinist on the radio, crying for those in her apartment, dying. Two of them, she said, barely in their forties, choking up.

April, I felt like a meme. A bad guy.

April, make the rich pay.

April, it was so on the nose the writing was giving me zits and I’m sorry. Keep thinking this is it this is it this is it and I’m sorry.

April, step into the fifteenth century.

April, Joanne Kyger in the song called ‘Belief’.

April, this stamina of maintaining the romance of living.

April, naming us yellowest flowers.

April, a lunar-resistant photography sings.

April, give me the negatives.

April, it all started on the eleventh. I went a ritualised cycle in the sweet warm rain, with flies stuck jewel-like to the sweat of my chest. I kept going and going until my heart gave out a charitable breathlessness.

April, you have a shark smile and I wonder what it is you might do to me.

April, I really miss Nice ‘n’ Sleazys, pints of Guinness, gigs & readings.

April, the air is a silver curve.

April, you are thousands of results.

April, the change I can’t have.

April, the little black cat tried to get in the door and for a while we sat there and then scooping her up I held her awhile, her wee beating heart next to mine. The warmest thing in weeks. Her glass eyes looked to the curve-glass moon and we both were momentary slivers. I went inside and washed my hands and the soap bubbles… and I hope she got home eventually.

April, oracular.

April, it felt stupid as a miracle.

April, consider the orchid.

April, it made of us talking heads. I dreamt I went through the screen and it was all a quiet darkness of matter, having read Karen Barad, having watched Twin Peaks. Is it that you go through your own eyes, zooming, watching to see what they’d do in the afterglow, repeating yourself. Here is the other Maria, etc. I watched you on someone else’s story, like a bad cartoon, the bad rehearsal of all of our laughter, a bad white powder.

April, I hate this.

April, my pins and needles.

April, Marianne Morris says ‘Never lay in the dirt elated’.

April, my dad sends me pictures of lambs.

April, it gets so I don’t want to call anymore because it hurts more not being with you in the summer, the summer, the amiable feeling.

April, the president says to try light and heat.

April, you are rice cakes, sadness and crushed velour.

April, the world is not primed or administered.

April, ‘they’ failed ‘us’, etc.

April, blue masks lay on the pavement like plasters afloat in the pools of my youth and I wonder whose wounding was minor, to take that off.

April, I swim in it.

April, a lesson.

April, I felt in the fortress of dreams the falling into after-this. On a spinning top at the park by the beach and we held on forever / and all my old friends were shining.

April, walking outside labyrinthine over…’

April, I can’t listen to Joni anymore.

April, the crisp sea air.

April, the police are everywhere.

April, I miss everyone.

April, if I could transcend already, the froth on a latte, the password required of me.

April, I make a donation.

April, if the story is lifted.

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Cocteau Twins – Rilkean Heart

Ariel Pink – Feels Like Heaven

Phoebe Bridgers – Kyoto

Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

Gena Rose Bruce – The Way You Make Love

Lil Rae, Pelican Tusk – ODYSSEY

Field Medic – POWERFUL LOVE

The 1975 – Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America

Neutral Milk Hotel – April 8th

Felicia Atkinson – Everything EvaporateSky Ferreira – You’re Not The One

Goth GF – Horse Girl

Lil Peep – Moving On

Paramore – My Heart

Double Discone – Red Light

Grimes – Rosa

Cindy Lee – Plastic Raincoat

Gia Margaret – Groceries

Laura Marling – Held Down

Jess Williamson – Infinite Scroll

Porches – Xanny Bar

Frank Ocean – Dear April

Mitski – I Bet on Losing Dogs

Pinegrove – On Jet Lag

Angelo De Augustine – Santa Barbara

Hand Habits – Flower Glass

Peter Oren – Falling Water

Tim Buckley – Marigold

Julia Jacklin – Don’t Let the Kids Win

Fiona Apple – Under the Table

John Prine – Pretty Good

John K. Samson – 17th Street Treatment Centre

Mount Eerie, Julia Doiron – Belief

Songs, Ohia – An Ace Unable to Change

Bright Eyes – Forced Convalescence

Nic Jones – Master Kilby

The Lowest Pair – Shot Down the Sky

Lana Del Rey – Bel Air

Sun Kil Moon – Ocean Breathes Salty

Outer Limits Recordings – Silhouette

Pelican Tusk – Rhubarb’s House

Roddy Woomble – Context of Midnight

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