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
There is much I cannot tell you. I’m not going to be autobiographical. I want to be “bio.”
— Clarice Lispector, Água Viva, trans. by Stefan Tobler
Hidden gardens where a bioluminescent frisbee, in imitation of the mysterious diskettes that roam the deepest zones of ocean, drifts upon the late May breeze. It is unseasonably cold. We take pleasure in relishing the ‘unseasonably cold’, as to say something is unreasonable or unforgivably it. The thing. The heating is on all through the month of May. Rain-sodden trainers left to dry on radiators. A documentary about nudibranchs had revealed to us the secrets of experts. Experts in general. How you really have to hate the thing you study, in order to love it. The thing has to perpetually withhold from you what you want, not knowing what it is, but always in pursuit of it. So the nudibranch in question, this pinkish one, does what is told as a ‘dance’ for the diver, who has gone too deep in the song. The sea tells nothing after the bridge. It is barely a chorus.
I am a heart beating at fish time, deep in the abyssopelagic city along with the dumbo octopus, the cookiecutter shark, the shrimp. I will not say much about these animals and how they came to adapt to such aphotic lifestyles. I myself was once a chaser of light. We are circus anomalies, dependent on a phrase of unseasonable coldness. The freak quality of not-to-want oxygen or like, having been left here then stubbornly I will stay here. Make of my heart what you want — a jewel or rock, a piece of cold life, swallowed. Bare and beating. Something is getting dark around us. Darker yet.
And so never to leave the perpetual lockdown of the not capital city, and so to leave it for gorse and blue realms and the haar of what is by the sea, in a wavelet transformation. Having to go inland to escape it. And so to give up one’s limbs for the personal study of human impossibility, as if we had also been persons all along. I wear a delicious, impermeable bracelet of kelp. The order of adjectives tends towards certain qualities, for instance when I say a blonde soft hair it is wrong somehow, touching the thing in a wrong order, when everyone wants a soft blonde hair as delicacy. To be in this month and spearing the secret fish of the story, one after the other meandering down this channel. At the bottom of everything, when you see it. When you see the story.
Let us go deeper yet. I have these new glasses, you have these hands that will brush away masses of silt and sand. You have the order of words corrected. Living in a grammar of ceaseless helium. Lamentation of the soft urban fox you were once, once were. The frisbee glows quietly in the grass at night. At dinner, J. gives the lowdown on *********** and various fish glow quietly in their sadness and having been farmed to believe I too am in this story, eating. The very delicate scarce thing we would toss to the word of the mouth, the open wound of it, melted substance. Brushing a fork through soft blots of cream and saying is it so, deep sea, very scarcely. This instant, speared, you are the story also. Salt. Twice removed from the lavender thing twigged from the garden and drank in gin with soda, so the ice knows more than I do. So the ice clinks in the quiet night, which is never a night. So T. confesses the end of dark lunch. I read it.
The cold fresh lenses allow us to witness how the deer get sick, how the white deer especially are beautiful by any standard of “I love you” said between the innocent eyes of how we are also roes, taking our glasses off to see better the way faces exist when brushed together, clicked and twisted, kissed. And the gorse so yellow, sky so blue. Immediately, to have been tourist for mourning. The most disappointing best hot chocolate in the world has all the good sweet silt at the bottom. I finish it, feel sick as expected. Flush. I throw up my arms or something. Wash the cup, recycle it.
So the nudibranch’s name is derived from the Greek words ‘nudus’ and ‘brankhia’, meaning naked gills. They have no special skill in discerning between light and dark, often using chemical signals to locate what is needed: food and each other. They possess a pair of ‘oral tentacles’. Soft-bodied, dragon-like, losing their vestigial shell during a larval phase. The extreme vividity of their being works as advertisement. I am obsessed with them. The sap-sucking slugs, algae rich. They produce solar power from munching on corals, absorbing their chloroplasts to photosynthesise nutrients. Bright colours result from their diet. The month of May has a toothed structure that tongues the very campion and jewelled aurora that passes for what you want ‘pure total nature’ or sweet poisons, for which I take showers to exhume from this system.
The writing, at the bottom of everything, is colours. They come from what we eat.
Null cerise and sweet neutral grey, back into darkness again and gently.
Now it’s 10:29 of Sunday morning and last night’s song thrush and the afternoon skylark and none of this heard on a podcast exists — it is all true and continues. The frisbee flies sentences through the wan air and hark is it early to never want to leave, to always be entering the room spreading butter on toast and holding a glass up for persons, wild-cats, in a language the daylight speaks and speaks along, another dark lunch hidden from the universe only to be camembert nightmares of rosemary — whisky — do you remember this shadow man or his shadow step-daughter, do you remember the riot, do you remember the castle of gold, clearance and loneliness? This place is tricky to heat. Black tulips, white hyacinths. Coming up the stairs is the question.
A nudibranch bristles into coral and kelp bed. At the bottom of everything is the nudibranch. Do you see it? Do you see it?
I burn my tongue on the question. What will be coming around the mountain of bleached consideration, haunted and lovely through the haar and more blue to come exists as breath, underwater, this pause before each born to scrub our hands with sea kelp soap from the isle of darkness and safety trending in the United Kingdom of the girl, with her voice of crunched glass abolishing sky castles, sand castles her salad days her spectacular glands her nudibranch heart
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————————————
The hall is full of noises, sounds of torrid airs and sigh. It is a steel hall, non-place, serving lusciousness in plastic cups. The animals sing on a loop. The choir just lifts. ‘The science is clear’ (Greta Thunberg). I stayed up waiting until the cries came, curled on my little sofa. It isn’t years that slip when she starts, when the young ones start, when the colour is like a radical hydro seminar. What do you have to contribute, I give you my silks just once, clutching a ticket. Can’t stop worrying the skin of my cuticles into a bleed, scrape the hard bit sore against my thumb. She just swirls. Something has shifted between us since. She moves she. Moveable she. I can’t start up.
Two of us drift in dresses, crushed of scarlet velvet.
It has been a long time since this was honeyed. I felt sultry like an Everly Brother, his actions speak louder. On the line standing and learning, the lines, I think it hurts.
In the poem I am clipping my nails again. Words, words, words; a snip.
How is it that we sat up late, same sofa, in the skeins of this year? Have you even come down yet?
His actions speak louder than shimmer_
Bliss not this, Christmas cactus at the corner of_. Is it better to cry in the sun or the rain. The rain is so obvious. I confected a dialogue to spite the blues and the cherries, rinsing packaging in the sink. It was supposed to be red. You said it fell flat. There was a half-moon curve between us and I sat there hugging my knees. The others. I like when you say you like a riff. Let’s be as I was in the hall, champagne later, tiniest bubbling; don’t say rise, let’s hold it cute. A sippable glitch in the music. Walking home in the rain, I murmured it: wtf wtf wtf. I made this punctuation; be here now, missing the body. She does this thing with her lips; teensy bubbles taste dust of gold & angel.
Watching your arms like a symphony, fucking—
Perhaps it is not about being at all, yet I am at the table and the hydrangeas are just too much. I wish there were Silk Cuts. Deathly attendant, where writing to you at the specific moment was standing in the flashbulb of a passing car and trying to look up at the stars. Just as the stars in the valley, we visit the shire. The stars you say are most particular, yet they are anyone’s; the stars are in the garden now, a proximate shrubbery and I put on my makeup. Deep bled fuchsia into sage and clary; yet we are violets, smelling the sea. And a dram before class, something citrine to start us, blendable night. I try it again; the word ‘frenetic’ peals from me.
If history was different, wouldn’t I be singing this.
Merry season helichrysum. There is a headpiece of corals worn by the sea. A quartet of angels play the flute-hoop and daylight twists, and Greta says it more than clearly. So hot this hurts. At current emissions. Someone in the back shouts FUCK THE TORIES and I put on my shoes. I wake up to my nails not coral-red, my eyes not pressed with cornflower blue. ‘if the word / does not arise it will fall back, the thing itself, it will fall again / into that ocean where it is not biodegradable’ (Beverly Dahlen, A Reading: 11-17). The thing of the word fell back into water, lots of it deep and luxury water. I wanted to say, the word has been waiting in shallow poetics. Floats of white. Water is a memory of the water before it. That feels like love but is that a falling. Into it, into it. That ocean speaks its chords again, thingly and falling. Dear degradable, non-bio daylight; sentiments of infrared, blip of foam.
I wanted to ask, are you striking, striking. The blood clots around the skin of our thumbs. Got lost in the rhythm I leave at the door / you painted helium blue. I knew it would bring me home to you. I was immediate, here, I knew what to do. This electric hand, hello.
What did you have to almost wake up for?
There is so much to grasp, at any one point. ‘We’ll clear a trail through the forest’, Hélène Cixous says, but ‘We can’t go via the city, nor at will, nor by bus’ (Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing). All those doors in the underpass, surely one was a portal? I thought it was only that you wanted me back in the leaf-trails of language. What is it that carries you now? The cold air whipped your chest and I pissed in the bushes. How much neon is the news.
Time collapsed so soft, we were in thrall of the science tiara.
We sat in this anonymous hotel lobby while the rain piled on and the beats got wet. Tresses of soaking beats. You say the only music that gets you now is pop. Continuum of sweetness in the formula lifts: the trick is melodic. So hot, you’re a burning peach. Embarrassed, I look at such childhood photos, the soft plash of it: language out of language it folds me again. Brush your hair. Softer your face, I come back to that star that is it. Approach, he holds out a finger to say, hello hello, hello you green. Is there something like a sour glissando? The bass was flat, my wilted leaves; the Styrofoam kept your guitar too warm. There are so many strings, collecting the sea. Only one you know
I was at the edge of a rainbow, sipping echinacea tea. ‘Farewell, Angelina, the sky is on fire and I must go…’ (Joan Baez, ‘Farewell, Angelina’). Do you think maybe it’s like, those emails were part of the plenum of summer, when I passed so south on the train with sugar-licked cakes of rice and a readerly silence? The sky was burnt and strange. And you could have boarded at the requisite moment, or maybe you were in the glass also, the glassery crying for the sound of drowning Amy from the game. When she did this impression of the lamb, I could not help but cry out. The aw, the aww, the missing ‘e’ in awe, a ewe. It was you. http://www.findyourfood/. Zombie tunes, sonic aporia. Mum said she nearly called me Amy, and I would have pink hair and sheaves of lyrical gestures, like this. Someone I loved had a house.
The sky is untitled.
Branding me narcopastoral, shepherdess at stringent dawn. We drag a high—
Break into it, careful at first then with clear intention. The wrapper falls back and away by clouds.
Upside down, we approach the softest waves. I’ll not harp on about the light, how it caught the crease of our plastic. You take us to the boat, so lovely and blue like sky. In the dream she unfurls her fist, a lot of blue dust comes out and her voice is thick and quick as an auctioneer’s. She has swallowed the age of the water. But we are rowing on, cordoned from time by the ripples of unforgivable sea. I want you to never forget this. Dream again—
We wandered a garden of samphire and crystal, met some friends at the edge of the blue. The grasses were singing a grassy melisma. Suffering cramps by the burning sea, the glass of the elsewhere orange, trembling sky. Scrolling my phone, I was reading an essay on birth control where the author, a man, argued that taken daily two spoons of honey would regulate your cycle. She got him by accident, a cherub handed down by the gold-dripping moon. I polished his soapstone limbs and drank from the chalice a lateral condition. Let’s go at this sideways, say every droplet of rain was a baby. Honey.
The additive birth of water, over.
Most palatial things are isles or sets.
They bring treacle scones for the picketers.
Bottles of wine for your glistening birthday. The sky is a film; it goes click, click. The season you say is looming, a moment agogic and I let you tender the rain of me down. I was all strings when the image appeared and you pulled on a tensile thread, a tease and we fell into the same whole notes…
‘Ion square, perspex swings / I breathe out, you breathe in / Permanent midnight’ (Bloc Party, ‘Ion Square’). It’s this song that feels like fucking, live in happiness, breakable day you free in a hold, before this sleep and the night bus home. I walk along the motorway. A breath between us feels like math, the ruination of the norm. I had nothing to bring you; I was reaching the end of the film where they find her dead, but only in photos. End of the lilting road. Quadratic Lily, Lily, say this is Lily. It’s just somewhere in London, and I want to love my mind. And I want to love my mind again. Did I love yours and yours too much. The fog rolls out of the square the same. When you drew me, it was like I didn’t have a face. The birches gifted their silver and I felt like sleep, so heavily berried. The sky is a film, you take it.
Trapped in acid, the hotel air is seething. I wanted breakfast to feel the same, and I wanted to love my mind; to love my mind for the sake of you in it. When the lyrics appeared it felt like the end-of-the-world digested, yes, it was a crème de menthe apocalypse — by which we mean, you can just hop in the grass of the future. Björk’s utopia. Juuuuuussssst that kiiiiiisssssssss. Perpex swings in helix of flute, could you insinuate a sleep, these spirals of harp. I’m not where I want exactly; look out the window. Sugar-rim. They pay less, pay less, pay less. A shot.
By the time I got back, the leaves were all gone. The stars, as if they were plural.
In the belly of the gnarliest graphics / I felt impaled on a former capital. There is luxury in the curriculum, but we live off our clearest cakes of rice. Break this as crumbs, don’t say word / The consoles cast their dust again. Press replay. I wanted to lie in a field, but that was you. A salty fist. I wanted the lie. Little curled hairs in the sink. Your name is doing well / Look where it got you.
The university a corpus ate the rat.
I was tired, you were tired, my mum was tired. This makes a rainstorm a screensaver.
Has anyone notified the trapeze artists about our sea?
Most things don’t occur as they do in this space. It flexes and folds in lucite, yet against the glint, less of your mobius eye. Roll it up, like a wave. We wait for the bus and it rolls in smoke / I press my faceless against the glass.
Bloc Party — Ion Square
Björk, Arca — The Gate
FKA twigs — home with you
Double Discone — Sam’s Kinky Hat
Clearance — Chances Are
Bradford Cox — Natural Harp Monitor
Princess Nokia — Balenciaga
DJ Heroin — My Veil
Grace Cummings — Paisley
Alice Coltrane — Lovely Sky Boat
Malibu — Nana (Like A Star Made For Me)
Hiro Kone — A Desire, Nameless
Hannah Peel ft. Hayden Thorpe — Cars In The Garden
The Brian Jonestown Massacre — Food for Clouds
Maija Sofia — The Glitter
Tomberlin — Seventeen
Weyes Blood — Seven Words
Soko — Sweet Sound of Ignorance
RF Shannon — Snake Oil
Caroline Polachek — So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings
I felt the only thing to do was to write a Book of Rain. I was reading all these San Francisco poets. Sure, you can get detailed climate data on more or less whatever you like, but it meant nothing on its own to me. I looked at the annual hours of sunshine, average precipitation. How many days of rain. I mean you could say Glasgow was like 329 or something. How many days in a year again. I have never been to San Francisco, let alone lost my mind there. Or maybe I have, the latter I mean. I googled what’s a box of rain and it started relaying info on radio access networks, because I’d left out the ‘i’ in rain. Access all radio until the signals run streams in your mind forever. We ran out of the box and into the street. I had a dream someone was coming for me in the bathroom of a restaurant and I had to escape but the floor was ridden with rats. They were beautiful rats made of iridescent glass, and I was nervous about shattering them. Beautiful soundless rats all around. You could drop a box and break them all. The waitress was crying outside because the boss had discovered her glass menagerie. “How beautiful it is and how easily it can be broken” I was murmuring to her, quoting Williams in some echo of what I had wrote in some essay, forever ago. Not for Emma. She was like, “But what is that it of which you speak?” She had a thick Polish accent and the tone of her breath was like full-fat butter, melting inside me, running down the side of the walls of the box. Animal ashes. I tried to give her a key, a single silver key to my office. I was like, you can hide in here and bring all the plants. The plants were also made of glass. There were avocado glasses, lemon glasses, aloe glasses, spider glasses. I’m not saying it was “unrealistic”. She carried them with such tenderness I remembered the names of many friends I’d abandoned to youth. Everything we said in the street outside was set to music. These kind of Vivaldi swoons of violin, with pizzicato flutes from the boys by the roadside, doing parkour. I felt stupid and reached for my cello. She was like, “do you not have a viola d’amore” and I had to demure I did not know. “It’s okay,” she said, “summer is in G minor.” I took off my dress and walked down the street, shrinking. I was waiting for a bracket to scoop me up. Something of her molten voice had shattered the glass heart trembling inside me. But where, but where! Where would I go. Summer is so stressful, those bloody erratic strings. I needed something that felt more like the rain. Soft rain pouring a chord inside me. What they say of the viola d’amore: with sympathetic strings. Whose love are we even soft for. The extra resonance of the rain lent weight to the future. The future auxiliary is. What did he die for. At the end of the rain, the air is composed of cinders. I missed Edinburgh before the Fringe. I was in a bathtub drained of water, lighting cigarette after cigarette and letting the ash pop the bubbles of thought. When I ask the internet of cinders, People also ask: ‘How did Derrida die?’, ‘How many languages did Derrida speak?’. I want the resilient self-presentation of all this nothing. My mother goes out in relentless rain. I composed a sonnet of the city, it went like All devices lying down and already I’d fucked up the iambs. So I googled it properly, what’s a box of rain. Any morning, any evening, any day. The box of rain is what this is not. I put pressure on the ash to summon a dormitory, the many-bedded archives of sleep. The world is a box of rain. The world is as fugitive as the bubbles of a sad geometry. Whose idea to play. They blew of our world a glass with walls and lid and corners. The rainbowed edges of slender aporia. Container for rain. You could prise open the box, its sticky lid, as though inside you’d find the most opulent yoghurt in the world. Imagine a yoghurt that would fill your belly with billions of tiny, glassy eels. I made of my guts the Hudson River. A lyrical gesture of elements came to count. I can’t listen to the song that makes me so happy I am instantly sad, like being stuck in a dream of a dream where all you can touch is reflection. I had all these stupid lines about gemstones, trying to hold that feeling. Cleavage. It’s existence, you idiot. ‘The reflection / itself’ (Cedar Sigo). They were all swimming inside me and I had a dream about swimming and chlorine depression and all the red sucked clean from my hair. The water would leave me a mousy self to crawl into her former corner. I would let the glass mice eat me like sugar. In the aquarium a sea mouse is pushed quite cruelly towards the water filter by a petulant scampi. Nobody puts baby in the corner but scampi. He was cute though, bug-eyed and orange-pink. Crustaceous slice of sunset, all feelers and limbs. They sometimes add colour to salmon, there’s a whole gradient of petrochemical pellet effects. A dark wild salmon is best. Dark a wildness, swimming. Pure aesthetic pigments. In the café, she spoke of how octopuses feel with colour and then I remembered everything. Everything I loved of your ruddy shade. Politics talking. Glass rats and pint glasses brimming with gold. A clip of the soft, panicky salt of the dark. Then morning relief. I sensed the light through my skin which was also glass, shaved glass reformed into something more convincingly epidermal. I was camouflaged, cold-blooded, cuttled into daily life. I cradled a corner. The eels propelled to the surface and left tiny blots like shingles. I’ve let them swum. I felt sick with all that had happened. In the salon, I read Plath’s Letters Home with my hair in shiny, sci-fi foils. ‘I plan to build up into the lovely creature I really am during the next two weeks’. First blush of ‘“champagne ambrosia”’. The herbal tea in Largs was better. Everyone crusted with salt & waves & exhaustion. Little roses among the leaves, expenses. The silver quality of island light fell on a speech. Someone recited the seasons in tiny, seed-like stanzas. I was handed a hazelnut shaken from the roadside fresh, cracked at the back of my mouth a green sort of sweetness. Yes, Sylvia, it all ‘bear[s] a whirl’. August is almost over. The sympathy of your cephalo-strings. A low kind of aching tremolo, plows through the intertidal zone, the reef, the abyssal depths of later. Paradise froze on a brooch. I had opened the blinds to nothing like light. Your diamonds are studded on tentacles, prodding their way through the window. They were sticky with yesterday’s circadian tears. When I dream, I wake up wanting to see the person. Palm oil on toast. My cutlery grief. People are having sex in swimming pools at Christmas. Tinsel of lindens lining the parks where cats enjoy their kill. A river runs into the sea. I am touched by a terrible language, the jellyfish trying to erase me. There was this wasp, we were trying to eat lunch. My fingers were black with tapenade and wine. You cannot swat this call away. I was a lover in the telephonic sonnet. I need a scholarship to write my Book of Rain. The kind of money that weeps from a nourishing prairie, melts like chocolate. I needed a whole milk scholarship. How to prove I was worth it. There was a green banana, a frazzled conscience, island jealousy. False green money, emoji, insomnia. There was all this ink on my sheets, like an oil spill. I was nobody’s refinery in the dead of the night where life was a story poured out on my shoulder. Oh you are lovely. We have our boxes of rain now, so many. I had not thought the rain would undo so many. Rain overflows its glass. Once again, sand again. It is a crisp apple rain. Held in the ampersand between days. I drew one on my wrist to mark that night where the colours were heavy inside me. I singed the fledgling arrivals of chorus, red-skinned greens. After ‘The Gilded Cunt’, I never looked at a bin-man the same. They are doing the rubbish in the garden in sync. I flung syrup from the window to tint the rain, and all the black bags would glow with gold. We had too much, it was sodden. Woke up at 8:am to find my laptop was streaming a video on pyramids. I watched Lana Del Rey step out of the screen and shake up the car where the cheats make out. Everything became an off-peak day return to the sea. Sunday of twenty-seven degrees. Triangulate clouds to a future point. In my Book of Rain, it’s stopped raining. ‘It’s stopped raining. My fingers graze the yellow flowers beneath my window as I turn back to my desk and write. These past two years have been difficult. I keep thinking of the time I’ve wasted. I was the undergrowth—always underneath taller trees, always wanting’ (Rae Armantrout). I was wearing white and not crying. If you could see my bones underneath. The order mattered not like an emptiness. A sculpted classic of ashes. The rat let out in singular, rain afresh. On your mother’s instruction I hiked in the wild farmland around your dreamhouse to find the Marsh Library, the Library of Marshes. The air smelled of opium incense and late summer pollen and I sat with my brushes, painting false dreams inside the dreams of the movies, and then the dream that held me melted. Directive. Natalie says, I felt cheated. I missed the marshes, required an Air. The broken hyperlink became a book by Nicholas Royle about the plaza of bootleg pdfs and I opened the book which was a sandwich, leaking sweet potato mush onto brown lunch paper. That was so disappointing. I would feed it to the rats; the rain had melted the words into gluten. End of the box of the endless rain. How do we say an object is ‘teeming’. I would bite the brittle stars of September.
Angel Olsen — All Mirrors
Björk — Virus
Tropic of Cancer — I Woke Up And The Storm Was Over
Telling a story is not like weaving a tapestry to cover up the world, it is rather a way of guiding the attention of listeners or readers into it.
— Tim Ingold, ‘The Temporality of the Landscape’
It seems I am happiest now when out in the country. Brought coachwards through Maryhill, Bearsden and north to the Trossachs, warmly we arrive where the air is clear and there are plenty of lichens to prove it. Something relaxes within my chest, the familiar twangs are settled.
On the road, we talk of stories and allusions. There is a cipher in the heart of Scotland and a myth that says more than etcetera. I jokingly call it Rob Roy of the Anthropocene and something makes sense.
October tells a story of all that has happened in summer. The leaves fall like words but never ask for discernment. One of us asks, What is the intention of the wind? It is easy to grasp what the people and the pollen and the tractors are doing. But what of the wind, most aleatoric of weatherly elements?
We arrive here to think through a specific term: Tim Ingold’s notion of ‘taskscape’. This notion brings temporality to an otherwise static conception of landscape: it factors in the performance of all entities involved in a landscape’s conjuring and perpetuation. Birds singing, workmen whistling, the whir of traffic, groan of thunder, sigh of trees. I stir up a whole anthropomorphic cauldron; its ingredients activating each other, bubbling and working. Ingold would prefer a more symphonic metaphor. Everything is performing some task or another, enmeshed in a complex, living system — what Ingold calls an ‘ensemble’ of ‘mutual interlocking’. The ‘taskscape is to labour what the landscape is to land’. To dwell in the taskscape is to enact a form of noticing that is multisensory, a way of attuning that picks up the subtleties of crackle and static within the picture, and in doing so reminds us of (multi-species) sociality, time and life: ‘the landscape is the congealed form of the taskscape […] the landscape seems to be what we see around us, whereas the landscape is what we hear’. Our guide for today’s trip, Dr David Borthwick of the University of Glasgow, presents us with paper ‘frames’ to remind us of this difference between landscape and taskscape, active and passive.
We shoot pictures of frames within frames, we flatten. I try to capture with my phone the green and the gold and the red and the light, but I cannot capture the fullness of surround sound, of medial sense, that makes a taskscape. And even with field recording, where would the motion of the water be? With video, how could the heat of the sun be felt? The smell of carbon coming off the road, and mingling with the forest’s brackish aroma? The burr and clunk of a passing lorry, laden with logs, which was more of a ribcage rumble than anything heard? Is writing able to capture some of that sensory dynamism?
Archaeology, for Ingold, is the study of ‘the temporality of the landscape’. The beat of its rhythms and actants, their play and tasks. Sometimes a taskscape eludes measurable time. The ease of synchrony. It could be time split into multiplicity. The time of the myriad ants trailing over pine needles in infinite fractals, the time of composting, the endurable time of the woman who works in the wool mill, the waitress who serves us coffee. Labour as glitch and repetition. The gift shop has summoned Christmas early with excessive trinkets, each one a throwback to a prior nation, the act of (re)imagining, Scotland the Brave contained on a keyring.
When we linger too long in one moment, Dave warns us we are burning daylight.
But we linger awhile by a grave. ‘Because I could not stop for Death – / He kindly stopped for me –’. Maybe we are mesmerised in churchyards because a slumbering looms beneath us, compelling. What is the work and the sound of death? Is it perhaps Emily Dickinson’s famous ellipsis, the almost-just-so of each fat dash? Is this the punctuated work of dwelling?
The grave belongs to one Robert Kirk, ‘The Fairy Minister’ best known for his book The Secret Commonwealth: a book about fairy folklore, witchcraft, ghosts and second sight. People have placed silver coins on the symbols adorning his grave. There is a currency to this kind of mourning, that blurs into well-wishing. Maybe it is more of a summoning. We learn that Kirk’s fairies were human-sized, tricksy and prone to following us, often as doppelganger creatures with their own mortality. Kirk had set out this alternative ontology, not entirely incompatible with his Christianity. These fairies live off of light, their flesh is comprised of air congealed. Idly I browse Wikipedia for further anatomy: ‘somewhat of the nature of a condensed cloud, and best seen in twilight’, their bodies are made ‘pliable through the subtlety of Spirits that agitate them’. The internet weaves stories around the things I am seeing. I click off my phone and instead breathe information in through my lungs, closing my eyes when the light is too bright and catching soft rainbows inside my lashes. These speckles of rainbow are my fleeting sprites, made of air and light and shining.
We ascend Doon Hill through burnished woods to find a shrine. There is a tree in the middle of a clearing where people have tied bright rags or ‘clooties’, along with loom bands, glitter, ribbons and a stray satsuma. Lichenous twigs are piled as offering, pennies and sweeties and conkers collect. We talk about whether these human trinkets make us feel closer to the tree, question our role as observers, the slide between intimacy and distance. The key word here is ‘kitsch’: these are mass-produced items, cheap commodities, remnants of sentiment and transient tourism. I am reminded again of the objects on sale in the Aberfoyle gift shop. Looking upon this kitschy monument, are we compelled or disgusted? Are such human-made objects utterly incongruous with the rustic landscape, or does their presence remind us of how land exists in time, is formed in continuums, assemblages, ensembles of affect and process and change. Dave tells us the last time he visited the tree, it was surrounded by mass quantities of plastic — presumably toys, wrappers of sweets, litter made sacred by fact of arboreal proximity. A sign down the hill says biodegradable clooties can be purchased in town. A problem was identified and the ecosystem of the land and the shrine shifts in tandem. There is perhaps a new aesthetic. Nothing is static, not even a monument. Lichen and moss spawn on a grave, a fly lays eggs inside a lost silk bow.
We admit the brightly coloured things, pastel and garish among the autumn hues, kind of gross us out. But we can’t stop looking. In Ecology Without Nature (2007), Timothy Morton says kitsch
exerts a fascinating, idiotic pull. It is often synesthetic, and it has no power except for the love we invest in it. Kitsch is the nearest thing in modern culture to the shamanic ritual object. Kitsch is immersive. It is a labour of love: you have to “get into it”. It poses the problem of how the subject relates to the object in a striking manner.
The more we look at the tree, the more we feel the pull of millioning time zones: the midges at night that might glow around it, the people who came and went, who took and stayed and left. It is only after we’ve been staring and puzzling the shrine for a while that Dave tells us the story behind it: ‘What if I told you…’. It’s important that this story exists in the conditional; for it too is a part of the taskscape, a melody played among the rest. The shrine began after the Dunblane school shooting, when a local primary school teacher brought her pupils up the hill to this tree, where she encouraged them to lay something of themselves in its roots. There was the hope of some kind of catharsis: a gesture towards memorialisation, to make a hurt world wholesome again. Dave suggests the term, ‘a secular spiritual’. The tree becomes a collage of innocence, of selves in time. When the pressure of being a ‘subject’ is too much, we call to the ‘object’. We want of the tree a longevity denied to others. There is some kind of empathy between species. Does the tree speak back? Here I am in this realm of kitsch and already yearning for a sort of panpsychism, a promise of communion, of relief and immersion.
Dave offers an answer, ‘To bear witness to landscape is to undertake an act of remembrance’.
The shrine began as a response to a deeply human calamity, but I wonder how this would function in the case of ecological destruction. Do people visit flood-sites, ruined forests, the ravaged remains of wildfires, with a similar sense of necessary ‘return’: the elegiac act of imparting one’s sorrow, sympathy and regret? Tying a ribbon to a tree, perhaps with the string of a message — is this part of ‘a new culture of eco-confessionalism’, which Stefan Skrimshire summons in his recent article ‘Confessing Anthropocene’ (2018)? Riffing on Jacques Derrida’s thoughts on witnessing and confession, Skrimshire suggests that: ‘the essence of the ethics of confession is that I never confess for my “self” in that modernist sense, but I always confess the other in me’; when we confess, we realise ‘the other’s desire for forgiveness operating in me’. My urge to lay down a flower, a toadstool, or some other jewel of the wood, is an act of remembrance and witnessing that also admits how such other species speak through me. I recognise the impossibility of asking for forgiveness for ecological crimes that exceed my limited comprehension; I gesture towards the small worlds of these things and how their hurt, their life and precarity, resonates inside me.
Perhaps what we need, in addition to confessions, are spells. I think of Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris’ recent book of acrostic spell-poems for children, The Lost Words: A Spell-Book (2017), which seeks to encourage children to recognise biodiversity, to perform little charms that ask us to notice the beauty of species before they disappear. While Macfarlane and Morris’ work gestures more towards the flora and fauna of the past and present, we might also think of enchantment as an attunement to the kinds of deep time inaccessible within ordinary human comprehension. Cautiously, Ginn et al. (2018) advocate Jane Bennett’s mode of ‘enchantment’ as ‘an uncanny and unsettling reminder of vast forces beyond one’s control. We might try to channel these forces in more or less enchanted ways, but success [in terms of progressive politics] will remain elusive’. Enchantment means noticing material vibrancy, the activeness and collaborative potential of everything in and around us, even while aware of the limits. It means thinking with, and wondering.
So we are still, so we listen. A little chill creeps in. I am grateful for shelter within these trees, the steps of their roots built into the hill. The wool in my fleece, which makes me look slightly sheep, but keeps me warm.
‘Enchantment is not a choice (although receptivity to enchanting experience can be cultivated); it is usually something that arises unbidden’ (Ginn et al.). I suppose we are doing our own work of enchantment, listening to Dave’s tales as we break fresh ground on the Highlands, trying not to think of ourselves as mere tourists — trying properly to see and hear and temporarily dwell.
Is folklore a form of environmental seduction? I listen to the trees, the way the wind speaks through them. I note all my instances of anthropomorphism. Okay, so Rob Roy was blatantly used to sell Scotland to American tourists, and, as a ‘thoroughly mythical character’ in Walter Scott’s fictional depictions, ‘the embodiment in life of all that the Romantic writer seeks in art’ (Leslie Fiedler). I wonder who our heroes are in the anthropocene, and whether they are human, and how we might queer them. If Roy is ‘the very spirit of risk and of the wilderness which he inhabits’ (Fiedler), then who might embody the spirit of global risk society (a la Ulrich Beck), who renders a wilderness once rich now spent and depleted by the actions of anthropos?
I miss when I was little and the woods were full of magical creatures, where now I often just see Buckfast bottles, fire pits, broken glass and other evidence of human activity. Of course the latter was there all along, it is a question of noticing. Does enchantment really have a summoning, interventionist function, stirring political desire, or is it more about consolation?
Maybe the anthropocene demands a kind of imaginary vigilantism? Letting rainbow smoke off into the taskscape, performing poetic intervention. Explode the light of all that action, demand appreciative feedback loops of refraction. This is nature hyperreal and this is it inside me and in you; this is it just as it is, this is why it matters. This is ‘the matter / of all of us mattering’ (Elizabeth-Jane Burnett).
The sound of a distant wood saw does its work. We fold back and descend to Aberfoyle.
Somebody spots this bird or that. Their branchly flitters an interruption, a quaver in the staves of the day, one talk flowing after another. As if to say, we are not gone yet; we are here and we still make sense.
The sun squints into my eyes, makes rainbows. The air is crisp and I crave orange juice, a supply of this light I could bottle, smell of mornings and woodsmoke.
We cruise along Duke’s Pass and make it to Loch Katrine. When I drink Tennents in Glasgow, sipping my yellow tin, I am drinking the water of this loch. Whenever it might taste bittersweet, or clear or cold or good, a remnant of that originary gold is present. To advertise your freshwater source is perhaps itself an act of ecological kitsch, a gesture of synecdoche that craves its place-name, its blue security. But I love it as I love the gold of these mornings. Drinking the landscape to drunk immersion.
There is of course also the light on the water, its scintillations just there, rippling, like someone spilled mercury. Silver and gold, but nothing of Christmas yet. There is a rhythm, just as Wordsworth and Nico both said, there was a pleasure there or then. To push such beauty into past tense. Miranda tells me about wild swimming and I’m already relishing a sort of burn and shudder within my extremities, the plunge of cold which is doing its work, shocking my body.
Murmuring burns Clumps of moss, soft & bottle-green hills in miniature
Pale teal lichen Intimations of meadowsweet The wires black-taped to rocks (origin & purpose indeterminate) A fine specimen of birchwood polypore clamped to its tree Tiny waterfalls A fluffy pig sleeping in the sun
What is the intention of the wind?
Wanting to preserve my tired light feeling, I decide against coffee. Calm as I am, sleep-deprived and attuned to things as though they were already wisps of memory. To make of a landscape only medial presence, and thus richer than if it were grand and static. We can’t look at the gorgeous sweep of the hills for too long, but we stare at the mushroom and the grave and the tree and the pig.
These harvested fields of depleted green, this sense of the real-time seasons.
Dave tells us the legend of Sir Walter Scott visiting the Wordsworths, and being so disgruntled by their continual serving of porridge that he jumped out the window and ran for the pub. I think of Jazzer in the Archers and this archetype of the Scotsman with his fondness for pints, company and hearty dinners. I think of these men as a weird continuum, the overlapping currents of cultural narrative.
Like porridge, the Trossachs are truly nourishing — as in, all your carbs and protein at once. I come back softened yet inclined to wildness. Home to Glasgow, I want to go back and walk and walk. Is this what David Lynch meant by The Return with the new Twin Peaks; as in, this odyssey towards belonging, the wind in the douglas firs, the cherry pie taste of a former present, always already slid into retro?
Rob Roy was also known as Big Red. Before he was co-opted as a folk hero, tartan-filtered & highly masculine, Rob Roy was a shapeshifter, a problematic noble savage. I remember a childhood trip to visit his grave, wandering the moors with my mother and father, unable to find it. Now I can just see it on the internet, but as jpeg the image is spectral, flat and distant, overgrown with ferns and pixels. By necessity, compressed. But in fact it wasn’t his grave we were looking for, but his cave, somewhere along the banks of Loch Lomond.Memory acts in slippage of language. I have invented the moors for my own ecological ambience, adding the wind and the mist, a childhood hunger for the warmth of a car and a packet of crisps. How do we carry our own taskscapes, or is it more that they haunt us, making their overlays of locality, literary story and myth? I don’t think we ever found that cave, and thus how could I confirm that it even exists?
Imaginary outlaws of ecological rupture. Where might we forge a folklore for the anthropocene, in its always unfolding, its gesture towards archival pasts and residue futures?
Ingold: ‘For the landscape is a plenum, there are no holes in it that remain to be filled in, so that every infill is in reality a reworking’.
A porous landscape is the illusion I want, pouring in dreams of milk and honey, preserving Romantic patches of mystery. Is this why people wedge pennies in trees? What are they trying to keep out or in; whose time are they buying?
I used to always be unnerved by the viewpoint symbol on a map: half a sun, half a symbol for buffering. As though the landscape’s vista were beaming out from the person, or beaming back into. Subject and object, difference and deferral. Was each line one of sunlight or current or spirit? What is it really that we’re supposed to be seeing?
So I get home and I take out my phone and skip through the roll of images. So I scroll through my notes. I close my eyes and there are imprints of sound and sense, the warmth and chill, the wind ripping raw my ungloved fingers, the flash of my hair flaring fire in light. There is so much to parse in place-names, these histories in miniature I can hardly manage. Dan Hicks (2016) revisits Ingold’s concept of the task-scape and concludes that archaeology is actually ‘the study of the temporality of the landscape revisited’.
Back in Glasgow, I hold the word ‘Aberfoyle’ in my mouth like a toffee. I’m trying to make it last a long time, hoping it won’t melt.
In Gathering (2018), Alec Finlay writes: ‘sometimes people say and repeat place-names simply because they like to hear them’. I am so ignorant of the complexities occurring within the Trossachs, within this taskscape or that. The delicate filigree of history, literature, tourism and labour. But I hope by merely feeling pleasure, learning the names and lay of the land, listening for its shimmers, I am doing something of the work of dwelling, appreciating, gesturing towards a sense of care, mixing myself with the wind and all of its unknown intentions.
We could make a list of all the places we’ve been, the things we’ve noticed:
‘may these place-names be, once again, useful in the world; may we be inspired by them to remediate the landscapes they describe’ (Finlay).
I fold out a map and think of the future, dotting at random. There is so much I don’t understand. Space is a palimpsest of half-remembered places; sometimes you can’t traverse it clearly. Maybe there are holes, or pores, or fissures. So anyway, you tell a story.
The air is full of spells, and names, and fairies.
Burnett, Elizabeth-Jane, 2017. Swims (London: Penned in the Margins).
Fiedler, L., 1997. Love and Death in the American Novel (Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press).
This month first bloomed in the green-gold fairgrounds of sleepless nights, twinned in a week of pre-delirium. We stood in a packed sports bar and watched three screens simultaneously, everyone’s face a spectacle of something other that was going on beyond offsides and angles and penalties. Indulgent love of epi-bro culture. Finding that tiny jubilance inside you. Running round with the lights off, spouting catch phrases that kill and kill. I say the same name again and again, without meaning to. Am I winning.
Closing time and proximate whisky. What swills and feels wavy, later, at the top of the street. I hold ice in my gums for the numbing.
Imagine a toothache so rich in pain it was like cradling some other entity within yourself.
So the paths seemed windier than usual and trailing my way into whatever would happen and the ascent and the lights that seemed stranger. Cradle your toothache into some kind of coda, a pause that leads to return. The portholes of naproxen, dihydrocodeine, paracetamol, ibuprofen. Appetite collapses and the mouth is a metallic pool of pain. Send one thing away to endure. Circle around, forget about yourself. Forget your body. Learn to make of my carpet a turquoise pool, our belligerent drift which quickens to pulse. I lay very still and bit my lip. Learn not to cry when people are kind, learn to accept gesture in itself. Walk in the back roads of Finnieston on some green afternoon, everything lush and wilted with rain.
So it warms again.
Salt rinses make me sad for the sea.
These train rides between cities and the way the light looks at eight of an evening in late July. The soft yellow gold of fields to be harvested, trails of meadow lines read as braille. We talk intermittently. I close my eyes to a faint remainder of presence. It is difficult to remember what’s happened, bundling into a part song of falling. Walk back along the Clyde, swallow a letdown that ricochets through all buried traits, read as you walk. Walk as you read. Chance encounters that mean things.
To be sent home early, to feel over-brimming with all this salty, incorrigible water. Cancer season comes to an end.
I say whatever weird thing pops into my head. This is the way we are now. It is light at six in the morning, we sit at the table among fag paraphernalia and sketch each other’s souls. So ever to read glitches between us in negative space. I walk home alone and the daylight tastes so beautiful and I am so dizzy from twice cheating the diurnal within the same week. When we message, we use only the choicest emojis. Wouldn’t you like a vial of mercury?
I told him I was seeing. I was seeing.
My head in my throat, forehead to forehead. Is it the sweat, the seemingly interminable beats? The club is like the cabin of a ship, sloshing with heat and bodies. I spill out in cold night. I write this looking at the rain outside, which is utterly vertical and soft, drooping the branches of trees I can’t name. The sky is a greyish egg white, clearer towards centre. It matches my mood quite perfectly. I fear it will melt.
The colours in the takeaway were ravishing, erratic. I could not take my eyes off the shreds of meat. The singular tomato.
The rain was welcome. It gushed bright cold to my skin as I peddled, the canal adjacent to my trail. Catching my breath on the hot chest feeling, which later would become a pang, a harp string pulled too taut. A minor chord that needed to settle. It takes awhile to settle into your own body, to learn its game. The rain was good, the rain was silver and dazzled the leaves. I cycled to Lock 31 and back again twice in a week. I wanted to compare each experience. The fact was a shift in my flesh, a chorus of moving blood and water.
My sweaty hair smelled of the sea. I like that the seagulls leave when it rains.
Maggie Nelson writes: ‘How many ways are there / to get saturated in another’s mind?’ & I wonder. She is writing about a canal too, but really she is writing about desire. Canals don’t flow though; canals are relatively static. Something of undercurrent draws them along?
The pale sweet scent of coconut oil and misplaced nostalgia.
The Forth & Clyde Canal is so unlike the Clyde, this great wide luminously masculine river. When the song came on and I thought of the boy who drowned. I like to look at the lights on the Clyde at night, feel quite dark in myself and proximate to history. Feel everything dimming. Feel muscular for merely being there.
But then once I saw the Clyde in the afternoon, it was buttermilk.
Maryhill becomes a sort of fairyland, the unseen space around the canal, the outcrops of houses blending into Anniesland. I stick to the line, the gravel, the pace. Trust in my breath. Clusters of teenage girls pass by on their mobiles.
Sometimes I hallucinate the phone ring of my childhood home.
Keep sleeping in and savouring escape. The trick is to get to bed before five. To keep yourself stable.
The weeks slip away like vulnerable sand flats.
I drink things that are orange and icy and strong. I try to recall that hullabaloo of pain. A wedge of it bright and red.
Drawing is a warm sweet vortex where I drag myself deep into greens and blues.
Layering long stints of techno over the same routes. It gets heavier. I walk into the headlights of cars without meaning to. They keep playing Darude’s ‘Sandstorm’ in Byres Road Tesco, the inchoate vertigo of a broken decade. Later I dream the stores were empty as they were in the snow days. Water everywhere, sloshing the hours and ankles, not a drop to drink. Remember when everything caught glitches, sounded through the tinniness of a Motorola phone, those metallic wee speakers, resounded twice over on the plexiglass of a bus stop?
Everyone’s cold suburbia closes. You just shut the skylight, ignore the rain.
When you are away I sort of half live in the other place, but then already between myself.
Is it the circles below my eyes, below ugly tungsten light? The intimate work of a visceral distraction? Too many bowls of soft cereal?
Craving the expanse of the sea, releasing my cuts, wanna lose all time + memory.
Salt rinse, salt rinse; salt and cloves.
Find a note on someone’s jotter at work: get cunt fae spar. It will take a while to parse this. Fae spar get cunt, cunt spar get fae. Ye olde spar will get yae. Forget the star.
There is a fight and a fire and over and over I write things like, gratitude, gratitude. Plug sockets sparking.
Resist the tinny in the fridge. Do magick. I think maybe I am tired and scared of the present. The piano sounded lovely. With my window open, I could hear someone warming the keys. Notes for a genuine summer, notes for a situation. Then breathe. Bryan Ferry is sound-checking from the bandstand, you can hear the distant, phasing groan. It is almost August.
Death Grips – Black Paint
03 Greedo – Jealous
Cold Cave – You & Me & Infinity
Fred Thomas – Good Times Are Gone Again
The Twilight Sad – I/m Not Here [Missing Face]
Hand Habits – Book on How to Change
Pavement – Harness Your Hopes
Mush – Luxury Animals
Black Marble – A Great Design
Sun June – Discotecque
Emily Isherwood – Calibrate
Hana Vu – Crying on the Subway
Laurel Halo – Sunlight on the Faded
RF Shannon – Jaguar Palace
Amen Dunes – Lonely Richard
Lucretia Dalt – Edge
Ride – Chrome Waves
Oneohtrix Point Never – Monody
Gang Gang Dance – Lotus
Beach House – Black Car
Womensaid – Magick!
Wooden Shjips – Eclipse
Phoebe Bridges – The Gold (Manchester Orchestra cover)
These bias-cut days of diagonal action, mostly slow rise and decline, drift into restless though feathery sleep. ‘The dreamer in his corner wrote off the world in a detailed daydream that destroyed, one by one, all the objects in the world’. So goes Bachelard and my own sense of crawling, hovering, in the cracks between things. Letters, cups of tea, cutlery, brushes and pens, awakenings. I worry that making a fantasy means reality won’t happen. You can spend too much in your dreams. I pay my debts in daily wandering, lifting plates and cracking hard metal off the grinder to fill up the cylinder with further coffee. Speak standard grade French for ebullient tourists. A, petit pois! What was it he said? A vast divergence between work and vocation. What splits in you and hurts evermore like a skelf. I’m waiting at the bar for a check, looking miserable because elsewhere in my head.
The heat brings fights to the park. I seem unable to read in daylight.
Caffeine dissolves all sticky platitudes of self-surrendering, the negative web. Objects I love become loss, so I stop. Pull out the game. Everyone I know seems to be moving away. There are these Instagrammed images of shifting reality. I ‘like’ them as if to say…
So maybe I go home but not really. So maybe in my father’s car, passing the house I grew up in which now has a shiny white 4×4 in the driveway. There is a dj with the same name as a boy from my school who wore ill-fitting boots. Remember I told him I was pregnant with triplets. I know every road and house in this town. Nothing alters on the virtual maps.
Two miles south. There is this playground in the forest, pine-built tunnels that lead through the treetops. I shimmy my way through child spaces, accessing the world from a miniature angle. I chew away low-level anxiety. We sit in the park, rolling buttercup stems between our fingers. Think in yellow, and have no thorns to distance me. There is so much to discuss but this chat is symbolic only; mostly between, mostly hungry. I cycle around Govan in aimless circles, prolonging the river with industry. People sit on walls outside their houses, but they are not talking or rolling tobacco or playing chess.
Half of this month is a blue-dark nothing. No difference between eve and day but shades of blue. 4am my friend, our twilight spirals. I’m aching.
I spend a weekend in Munich and meet the illustrious Robert Macfarlane, who wears a mushroom pin badge and enthuses on Sebald. The Bavarian meadows are everything. I write condensed sentences in my notebook, sometimes unsure of source: ‘The painting asks the viewer to prefer shadows to sun’, ‘The brain’s sweet opening to calm and green’. I am travel tired, pleasantly so, and involuntary naps overlay with words—so images stir around me, lift from the page new worlds. I take photographs to mark a certain summer. Foxgloves, cash machines, the margarine tree; gorge of solstice which gives into poems.
We share wine outside. I lace my sangrias with a bottle of port, you’d call it darkling sunset, but not a good taste. How often this month have you woken to fog in your head?
Black-and-white plate of burnt kale.
Is our depression competing? Compression.
Admissions of sickness, 39 likes, mustang. He only smokes when drinking.
Maybe we don’t need sleep at all!
What lore of virtual archipelagos? I think of each chat log itself as an island.
My brother came home on the last day of May. Now off to Israel he leaves in our flat a blue bag of avocados, three fillets of salmon which rot in the fridge.
Sometimes time does me a favour. The way roses look at four in the morning, gilded with lamp light against husky sky, a faint azure. The hazy look of Lana roses, a vintage filter in always already.
The tenements were blood meridian. Sun moving west.
Scrunch salt to make curls in my hair. Post-chlorine shower feeling. Involuntary.
Wake to your messages, drop more before sleep. Two blue ticks. See everyone and then again everyone leaving. Homesick for dialect, yelling haneck. A mosher at heart requires eyeliner always. I keep some old stone beneath my pillow.
The lines around your eyes, a ring for every hour not slept.
Fall into chorus of gulls and whispered recordings. All of my gross human narcissism.
A birthday. Rose dress and fishnets, refusal of dancing. Middle-name. Tanqueray forever.
I resolve to make new—
Slim readings, okay so I swore and did not cry because I’m saving my hot bright tears for July. Cute motivational pastel skies. Line after line being temporary.
There’s a song but I just want everyone glowing around me.
When they played ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ in Sleazy’s.
I would look up, intermittently, through a canopy of light-filled leaves. I’m sorry.
As if nothing happened, / I’m so busy, I’m so busy.
When it burned down we were in the street, all interlocked, we could see the embers. Blue and red. Helicopters overhead and my heart in my throat, something lisping the skin of my ribs.
The comedown just happens. I’m not the only one who’s numb.
Invitations to the Catty all weekend.
Work a whirlwind of smiles and graduations. Bottles of prosecco forgotten and balloons that go missing in minor scandal. I try to be better. Accessing all these families. There’s heat and light and a barbecue; ‘Some Velvet Morning’ dragging the scene to its sunburned, surreal conclusion.
I hope something pure happens, softens inside me. Precarious mentality preserved in blue.
Little sweet, cycloramic tweeting.
After that article, feeling wholly grateful for my vision. I mean she had scars on her irises.
Does anyone ever want pineapple juice?
Slimmer now, reflection in coffee shop windows then not. Near tears on the phone. It’s mostly viral, the body’s bright omens. Everything revolves or resolves around you.
An hour a day I actually feel adult.
Calum does my tarot again and this time there are mermaids, mountains, a perfect circle.
Rodefer, Rodefer, Rodefer:
‘Breeze, trembling trees, the night, the stars. And there you are, in a manner of speaking.’
Infinite ugly gas bills from winter.
Disclosing my name as if to say, the end is near. Everyone lovely is reading Remainder. So talk of football and residuals, the free cappuccinos. A system.
‘You two look intimidatingly cool.’
I start painting again but find it hard to mix colour. I want the authentic, luminous lime. There will be a triangle off-centre in the heart of this landscape. Is it even a landscape.
Bike through gushing rain to get back to the present. We dwell awhile in the darker mezzanine, listening to the passing trains, the motorway traffic like hard waves sloshed against a sea wall.
My excuse is, this is all just sketching.
Better for energy, blessedness! A very old episode of Grand Designs.
Somebody somewhere is square-going a seagull while you read this.
Jazz gigs & taxis.
Fear of swallowing moss is utterly irrational, totally a Virgo thing. Intelligent attention.
She is likely to put on a facade of indifference.
Feel bad as ever for bailing.
Slather myself in factor 50, go out to embrace the evening. It’s half past three and I wear white cotton, 30 degrees washed and then a whole new 30 degree heat. Times the right way you make ninety, then three, the year of my birth. Somehow survived a quarter century.
I drink black coffee and watch seven swans moving towards me slowly.
Back on the west coast, I want Lee Harwood to describe the sea. Thin haze of blue Arran and my childhood dreams.
Even managed to change the sheets. The electricians came without warning.
Walk 20k steps for the sake of a stranding. June is all over me.
Skewed in a sunburst pleat, I wear less and contain my reactions.