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.
A briar morning of London, the original underground statuette or ahistorical blossom — what are you doing here? It is very gentle to slice the cake of your loved one’s birthday, rich dark insomnia cocoa; the sky is practicing abstinence I can’t see the stars. Consider the interface of energies required to make this: several employees gathered around with walkie-talkies, another first edition loneliness, a seat to yourself. I say to myself, “this is the morning the sky is a gradient like the standardised gradients offered by Microsoft Powerpoint in the mid-2000s” and it is not cheapening? The modern philosophy of doing your tax returns in a panic to want accountancy exhausted and proffering the invoice through which a house is saved, this is the house of the poem whose cost is enormous. What is the most expensive poem in the world and was it ever gifted for Christmas? The doorways of the poem are the blanks in the world blank dream I sing for thee, the long day doesn’t remember itself as software. A man on the train says he’s connected to mystics and he saw a person looking over me in the moment I wrote this. A man took his Tesla into the dunes to obliterate the everyday dumpling of automobile labour, that you had to repair this through various elaborate steps like I order new headphones with speakers embedded so as to walk around on the phone, like a nozzle it connects my breath to the stars. You are dropping off sleeping bags in the dream, a shelf for your glasses, a coda for napping off lavish anxieties that bloom in the elevenses of news is a fallacy. Avanti mystics. This is the worst day to pass exactitude as a micro trend or see like zoomers typing badly in the 1980s; the person is a railroad that goes on forever once they get started. Friday is a frantic alacrity I love you a briar morning, my shins torn apologies of the privileged for getting this blood so torn — a tree, a sparkle, a dove, a star. Everyone’s locked in their own toasters and burning crumbs, smoking dope commons of the momentary aerosol, first-person trauma of seeing yourself convivial in other amusements. You read? You blink game? You test positive! It is a message to educate the beautiful thumbprint of kittens who haven’t yet scratched reality out of their innocent systems. Christmas is a rate of speed. Stasis, languid and of ivy, tussling, intimacy of the leaf miner and the leaf. We need holly, poinsettia, grace. A week from today will be the new year.
Wet-leaved, walking up hills with chain oil on my elbows, knuckles, knees. We are on the eve of the ‘big climate conference’, which is to say, to be a host city of preemptive closure: there will be no more roads so that nobody can block the roads without authority, no more bridges for your tiny feet. I imagine a commute that takes me north to Kirkintilloch and back along the canal, an extra hour and a half of leg power and stamina and to arrive like of a beetroot complexion to the moment when somebody speaks. These streets are mostly broken glassed, and I see nothing to sweep that; I see buildings go up, see extravagant plant life grow from abandoned houses. I dream about bike punctures from enormous shards of glass. A mushroom sprouts in the brutalist building. I should have planned to do something. More tired than words can.
Imagine awaking beautifully at 5am each day, to actual birdsong and car sounds, still going through the night to Edinburgh or the general east as they do. I miss the ocean, which I have not seen since May. Sometimes I forget that its quiet, rhythmic hush is always in my ears, a tinnitus with the switcher dimmed. All summer I swapped the ocean for industrial estates, teeming with buddleia. If I go to a club, it gets full bright. The hush. At 6am I make atomic coffee, await words, say rain. I could tell you about the new university building and how I will never find a space to work there, doomed to circle identikit floors like airports in a suspended time that nonetheless eats into my time of work, a starship, doomed to fill a cup of hot water and carry it up and down escalators only to be cast back outside with scalded hands, cried into blustering autumn. A hazmat suit to be a student, studying the microparticles of your love in blunder. If I could study on the floor, in the street, with the leaves stuck to me. But I am a sufferer of frostbite and poor circulation, owing to damp homes, an unfortunate experience in the snow and damaged nerves, fragile metabolism. I am not there anymore, in the place we have been
Canned words taste better with more salt on them. Fuck you. Sitting on the curb in the 1990s surprised us when a plane went by, it was carrying my childhood. Remember we used to put each other literally in bins, until that wasp stung your ass and I was sorry. We prise open tins for the juicy bits of the story like, what would it take to get the attention of a virulent benefactor? Should you become a red squirrel enthusiast, or take up the statuesque hobbies of sportsmen? What beneficent largesse would require it?
Imagine not living by the anticipatory hormone storm of a coming menstruation, or like, the cramping wildness of the night and morning or blood gushed trying to have coherent thought in the day when your mind is fog. I want to transcribe some of that fog to writing, to remember how it was when again I am in clearing, to be like this is the place, it’s never gone. I was held in it, the tearing itself to shreds sensation to write this at six in the morning before work. Plants don’t have to go through this; is it that they’re always ‘working’? How do trees feel when they shed their leaves? Is it like an annual period and do they miss them? Should I develop fondness for shreds of blood in the toilet, abject bits of me and not? I saw a leaf blush out of my mouth and into a leaflet. Smoking kills. I watch the men in high-vis sweep up the dead leaves, more like dying, into black bags by the side of the road. Someone around here is always burning rubber tyres in secret. It’s kind of erotic to watch people do something repetitive and with great concentration, as if no one else could possibly notice this. To do your work that way. O your beautiful butterfly shoulders. Missed opportunities.
For instance, I could have lived through this moment to learn another language, write a curriculum vitae for the purposes of waged employment, called you.
“It feels so good to walk in nature.”
Blood drop in the shape of sycamore.
Where is Canada?
The revenge fantasy is only that trees are flirtatious as hell, winking pollen so that you watery-eyed have to look up at the stars sometimes and beg, like take me. Let me out of the forest so I might see
(fantasies of committee,
the ground to tie
my own laces in figures of eights.)
The figure of eight in Karla Black’s sculpture which is pink-smeared recalling everything I used to put on my face. The idea is to find a sort of peace with it. School bathrooms where a face was pressed against glass and cruelly examined. I dream of rooms filled entirely with blizzards of eighties-blue eyeshadow. Angel Olsen, 2014, Pitchfork Festival. Having lived with the spirit not for resale, traded on a stark memory of that colour where every remembrance seems to intensify blue, until all I have is the pigment itself, ultramarined into oblivion. To wake into that blue and not see beyond it. I put my sore arm through the right-hand loop of the eight and pulled this out for you.
In the dream we pass an armed convoy and into the bakery with coins allotted to us by authority figures, and we buy pastries adorned by sugar ice drawn in mobius curlicues, and the pastries flake away as we eat them, greedily on the street, so many flakes falling before the guards. And we are butter-mouthed in the face of conflict, war and summit. A kind of shout chokes the air but the golden morning goes on, the falling leaves. I have these cramps and double over in the falling leaves. Men come to sweep around me, where I have fallen. One of them bends down — he is so young to be working — and pats my head tenderly and I see a leaf fall behind him and I know that leaf to be us, so we embrace platonically for one moment, as though I were his long-lost twin, before the foreman calls his name, which I can’t recall—
No, not that at all — he touches the soft part of my ear, goes “are you not young to be leaving?”
In trash, the language of trash, the trash piled up against the highway of your declaration. The men stopped coming.
Azalea, camilla, plum blossom, hydrangea.
Rizla, tin foil, styrofoam, gum.
The noise of vehicles pulling up around the city, emitting fumes.
The petals shed and I sleep on them, dreaming my blue becomes turquoise
Life changed the moment I minted my depression as an NFT. The process was long and boring, but now I am a clean one who has never grasped the meaning of silverware. Let me try to explain the process of having a life thus expunged of its fungibility, which is to say, I feel now worthy of anything. I don’t even need to log on.
This is not a book of ‘the environment’, nor do I profess care for the precise expenditure required to fuel that sluice of the blockchain which facilitated said transaction. Honestly I am just glad to have sold my black dog to an eager buyer.
I can hear someone crying thru the walls most nights, the kind of wail that angels do, having no sex to think about they might body millennia of pain. The quality of having no carnal emotions owing to calorific deficit is guaranteed.
The black dog was adopted from more or less insipid childhood fantasies in which more or less I could not have lived this far. Small red marks on my glyph flesh. Not to be dramatic but there is a reason why I am scared of cars. The first time what is called Marlene sat behind a wheel I freaked.
Communiqué over Excel spreadsheets had led me to believe my sadness was extractable. I started feeling it everywhere, standardised and flashing among the long trails of light exposure.
Imagine buying a thing for its absolute exclusivity, only to release its essence, bit by bit, in meatspace! The ambience of my original sadness spread across the mall, where generally I was to be found weeping by the ceramic fountain, where people tossed coins as the wanton value of wishes.
Dramatic monologue of the dog: I am a dog! A fucking dog! You better not touch me.
I tell you, I freaked the fuck out. She did. Is it better to have someone crying or having sex thru the walls? Irritability is a relative condition. I’m so tired and fucked up. Moan.
I want my black dog back Why are they not a blue dog, someone asks in the comments. The internet is so fucking literal. I paint my nails hot pink and chew them so all the polish flakes into my mouth like itsy bits of sext.
Have to stop myself reading Lauren Berlant’s blog again. Get kinda sentimental at night. ‘I was lucky to be the dreamer because the dreamer never stops being interested. People know when they haven’t said enough, that’s why they dream’. I never say enough, that’s why I write. There’s something I always wish I told you, but you never could tell.
Every time I sit next to a man on the bus, I assume he’s gonna reach for something intangible, a long red thread you could tug from my cunt with this terrible thing at the end, that’s it.
The black dog had impossible puppies and the puppies are always following me, especially onto the bus. Ten black puppies is a lot of transport coverage. Driver winks and goes, ‘you’re just a pup’. When I close my eyes, we spit in each others’ mouths. I hear a Belle & Sebastian song in the distance.
Scenery passes, etc. Static poplars.
Everybody started to ask, Where do you see your future? I see my future in NFTs, is the prepared, p(r)eppy answer. No, not as an investor. I’m not even a flip in bed, where it counts. Can you guess?
Everybody who doesn’t have a choice has a price. I used to text M. like, what do you think I should do with my life. There’s nothing to buy at the mall. You should go home, she says.
Earlier I lied. I kind of do care about the environment. Black dogs let loose among burning forests.
I have no memory for the feeling of rain.
Non-fungible errors cluster my dashboard. That I had my sadness minted and then accused of bad metaphor. Darling, I was the economic downturn all along.
I eat with my fingers among the dogs. They love me.
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
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
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
Voices, hear say yes
The word haecceity
Streets without vehicles
The first day I discovered the meadow
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
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
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,
(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————————————
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, 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, 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.