ABasketofFish
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This discovery of yours

Will create forgetfulness

In those who learn to use it

Their memories will waste away

They will not remember

from within themselves

But trust in alien marks

You have discovered a potion

Not for memory but for reminiscence

You offer your students not wisdom

But the appearance of wisdom

They will be hearers of many things

And they will appear to be omniscient

But know nothing

They will be tiresome company

 

From Plato

"Phaedrus" 275a-b

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Writing

this now

is a filter in the flow

screening the bitstream

a skeletal reef or

a fan coral in the current

a mesh of memes in the mind’s eye

tuning a prism to drift in the shimmer

and imprison the fleeting

 

I see you moving beneath the surface. If we could talk now or be together in the squat silence without this mesh we would feel a common heat breathe in and out in turn, exchanging parts, turning together in the current. I would not have to imagine your frowns, quizzical looks and yawns as I do now. We would know when to surface for air, when to dive, when to drift as if dead. But we are caught beyond the skin of this thin ground which is the florid lid of my coffin and a path for you strewn with eyelids.

 

The house of card I offer stands like a refuge or a provocation, cathedral or catacomb to raise up and cast down. But after all this divination is only a game of cards and pictures on cards.

 

What balances and contingencies made this ocean?

Which storm broke first on the lonely earth

To fill the first puddle in the first season?

What shape was the first shore,

By what chain of reason?

 

An eddy forms in the deep water

And whirls into three dimensions.

It is invisible and mobile.

Undifferentiated from the body of ocean

But for a restlessness, a turning on itself,

A folding and compression and opening

Of the fabric of the water.

 

Invisible ripples, waves of extension

And compaction undulate outwards

From the perturbation through the ether.

The beat in the empty ocean is a vibration.

A molecule humming against other hums

To create a deep pulse. And these molecules

In abyssal migrations collide and harmonise.

 

A pulse solidifies out of the drone.

The shock wave propagates through the ocean

Finding resonance and reflection

Accelerating texture

Nodes and troughs shudder through the liquid body.

A cloud of jelly condenses as a star in open space.

The pelagic membrane bubbles and births a single cell

Creates a skin between inside and out

And proclaims itself.

 

 

The bags and books I clutched on that continent might pull me down if they didn’t dissolve. All I can take across the wide ocean is the bark I swim in. The land that knotted it drowned in the wash below and behind. And what could I take on which path to meet the arcs of weather? The art of the stars was never taught to me. My aim is now whatever has been written in my timbers and sinews. Where I will go I decided long ago. Now only the breath is fresh. So with it I build myself an island. Beings wait, suspended in the black, whose building sized, aeons-long neutrality drifts against me, without my knowing. Much later, trees will grow here.

 

I have arrived at the first cathedral.

I am the first to see this empty shore

Full of the edifices of cumulus clouds

Rearing into space

To filter the light of the fresh sun

And throw gobos on the virgin sea.

 

The stains of light on the grass are blueprints

for the heaped stones I found last night,

gathered at the wind’s instruction,

and accumulate here in circles and lines.

I am the first, I think, to gather to me

the bodies of the billion dead

who came before and secreted themselves

into water and earth and stone.

And with their sacrifice now I mark

the geometry of our sojourn.

 

There, the patch of yellow where my brother lay

There, the hollow where my mother

Waited and watched the glowing rhythms

of the sea in her time of blood.

There where my father disappeared

Singing back into the earth.

The stars trace their familiar shapes in us

And we wheel our kith from place to place.

 

Architecture is calligraphy

On the page of the earth.

A building is the halide notation that reminds

That fixes a flattened circle in the grass

 

A net of writing catches quicksilver fish

Pressing them against the current

Foundering somewhere between

The soft haze of amorphous cells

And the invisible fossil

Squeezed within the wait of sediment

 

The page is a floor for a pen to dance

And leave its footsteps

To clatter down your corridors.

 

The screen is an ultraviolet light

In the Hadal cold making luminescent

What had been felt but never read.

 

The book is a quadrant dropped

To sample the field

Killing the writhing thought in order to save it.

 

How fine must be the knots of the weave

To sieve through all the flickering fry,

Think them out of the dimness,

Land them on the dry deck?

 

How thick the walls of the hospice

To help the lame and fainting

Weakling stories

Live through the night?

 

Beneath a billion beds

A fish lies dead in the silt.

Trapped between striations

Becoming earth.

I hear it through the waves of sand.

 

So you’ll turn my water to stone

Lock my vessel into land

While I push against the press?

I’ll float free where there is no air

Beyond tablets and pronouncements.

 

Pulling up a stone from the Welsh mountainside

I feel the print of a fish under my palm.

The standing stone completes a temple

coasted by a circle of trees

With worn paths between.

 

The bones are buried by a city

and rise again as a cathedral

Like the mast of a ship from a font of water.

A stone fish from the sea floor.

A book from an idea.

 

Architecture is calligraphy on the page of the earth. These words a wrinkled surface on the sea of sensation. The city is a flotilla of fishers rising and falling. What is caught is just a cupful of the quicksilver rain that flies from shore to shore. And even this ocean is but a moment’s intersection of the hail that drives from heaven to earth and blows traded from continent to continent. In this rain we drop crosses to catch and swell with kill. Sink nets to encrust them with distilled cloud. Wander the weathered fields to drink from webs and spin them as we walk. Here are scattered pearls, enough for all.

The canvas rigged over us fills with the cloaks of merchant pilgrim warriors. In the arm of my camp chair a mesh pocket sinks to cradle a cup just an elbow swivel away. And in this corner of the wilderness chairs large and small, fluorescent and gingham, herd in patient conversation. Workers crawl throughout, weaving us. Floating on the sails of heaven-high silver lines or climbing tirelessly through the microscopic undergrowth. The legs of spiders and octopi flow through coral gardens.

Strewn about us on the grass are the webs of consumed moments bounded by possibilities arrayed listening to the flecked onrush of the deluge that surges through the valleys. Before us a preacher has called the mothership down who will save us in the cables of her embrace. But until then great fans filter the current, breathing and drinking us and conveying us always into the invisible earth from whence after aeons of crushing silence beneath the curve of the horizon we are born again as blades of grass to spear the morning’s sigh and reflect one another as disappearing dew.

 

I am the book of every thought I ever had. I am the record of my every move in ticks and tiny blots and florid flashes of illumination like gold leaf moving with the sun through the cavernous vaults of my body. Every page I read burns away and drowns and is stripped by the relentless wind. My body disperses through every part of space. My body condenses to a retinal cell, a finger tip fold, a bud, an ossicle.

 

I am a packet of information sucking at my skin clinging to and separating every hoarding. Chords, horns, bells announce desires I did not know I felt. Sirens entice me into their delirium.

 

I think the ring is you. The call is to say a text is here. I open an envelope while reading an email exhorting me to open my window and wander enchanted through it, always forgetting where I’ve been and where I am in the deafening glory of the promised world.

 

Each bit in this quicksound is shaped to suck its neighbours in while slipping away on a fluid film. From this terrain the cold emptiness of the sky seems like a liberation. The falcon sees only one thing.

 

I string a snare of words to catch every charged pulse but love and hate and play feints through the clauses. Word falls through word. And sense swims in the air between us thinking like an animal, its body changing. Our pages drift and trawl over every liquid surface searching for the fugitive lover. But the breath can never be caught.

 

The stacked towers of my conversations are archived in folders. I can cross-check the blocks of my history like a city. Misunderstandings, corralled and hobbled, cower in sheepish bars. The wilderness is penned. Busily I flag and mark and cipher space while the sky gets bigger and bigger. And a falcon rests on it arms outstretched.

 

But while watching the weather, I’ll sow. And what water makes the seed grow? A rain of blows written on the field, and a coat of sweat. And leisure that soaks into all the spaces. My seasons hurtle past in blues and greens and smudges of russet. No lines or shapes. Nothing to describe. Nothing of note.

 

To tell you what I saw or felt, or myself who will be you, I’ll forego the treasure trawl and plant a tree of words and cultivate not just my belly’s fill but my wife’s too and my son’s, and the sons and son’s wives who will dig me up and find me bursting with ink and who may be glad for the slow swelling of investments like fruit that gathers juice in invisible droplets. They may know the idleness in which the peach soaked into my tongue, itself the recollection of rain.

 

But in the torrent is no savour so I’ll stop and fast in the midst of rapids whose speed crushes the future and washes away the past and catch what I can in vessels, in the hollows of books and photographs and in splashes of melody.

 

And yet setting store is forbearance and reminiscence dims the scene. In the end all is loss. Memories are of the futility of memory and culture is the cultivation of tragedy. Holding on, letting go, enjoying, has all one ground. One bassline. Listen. This is my fretwork. So I say so that I may give and not just take.

 

Every step leaves a spoor known or not, in the mud which is itself the dead and living bodies of countless rock dwellers from which in my play I fashion castles and cathedrals. The tracery of the world is my memory and needs no consciousness. Except when it grows of its own accord do I force the sap through its tubes and onto my idolatry? The living word of knowledge has a soul of which the written word is no more than an image. And yet I envy the storytellers.

 

Fisherman

 

Again I swim through the infinite dark

I call to you, ‘Come to your end’

Flat water spark into an ark

Come darling curl into the bend

 

I call to you, ‘come to your end’

Come water tighten to a splinter of light

Come darling curl into the bend

Come sea floor shiver, burst into sight

 

Come water tighten to a splinter of light

Under the bowl of my billowed net

Come seafloor shiver, burst into sight

And lie before me cold and wet

 

Under the bowl of my billowed net

My voice spin out a reeling thread

And lie before me cold and wet

No longer lost, already dead

 

My voice spins out a reeling thread

To the silent space which gives you birth

No longer lost, already dead

You slap this bark, this book, this earth

 

The silent space which gives you birth

Breathe a word to feed your child

Slap this bark, this book, this earth

Plant a seed against the wild.

 

I was the first to come. Across the rippling waters

I saw a country lying wet with exhaustion under the virile sun. I drank and walked the sight at length and pressed into forgiving grasses the signs of my reverence. Reeds and stalks bowed for months in remembrance of me.

In time my feet wrote paths into infinite space and I gathered worn pebbles to mark the ways I’d come and others might. From cumuli I tasted the breeze and watched the elders rise and set around me.

Until the moment came to fix the places of power with stones of imperial weight. And in these places I came to stand among trees and mountains and feel the light move across my skin, and know that it was good.

Until I made a roof to shield me from the skies dark moods. And the roof grew into a vaulted screen on which my conjured shadows played. And the screen exulted around me in cloisters and galleries and bosses all in glorification of that first time I had flattened the grass.

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