As a child I was a philistine, having interests in radioactivity and the kinds of curios you can pick up in a down-at-heel antique shop, but little else.
I had an obsessive streak. My parents perhaps used their megaphone to try to distract me from my collection of censers and nutcrackers – if they did I didn’t notice.
My mind was septic. Now my sense of self-worth is restored – even something like cement offers possibilities for reflection and growth.
My childhood: a red bookmark, gilt-edged, separates an imaginary wound from a real worth, and a real wound from imaginary worth. My childhood, my chimera: wax on the table, drawing pins, wonderful footsteps behind venetian blinds. Muffled music; solemn custard; routine butchery.
In my youth I was enamoured of materialism and danger. I surrounded myself with clap-trap: Bowie, woofers, goo. Also with smoke and crocodiles. Periods of wilful amnesia alternated with diatribes. I had the aura of a recidivist and the look of a gladiator.
Is it still possible to dip the corner of a triangle of toast into the soft taramasalata of my youth?
Someone pulls me from under snow.
The cries and whispers of the nursery-slopes come to me, bringing afternoons in bed with earth-mother types: “oh, you are a true patriot”, and “attend to me now, I am almost in the home-straight”.
I have lived through years when it has been common to hear people use the words ‘gorgeous’ and ‘gormless’ interchangeably and without discrimination.
I have walked through regions of banality on my way to the bank. I have observed that there are reasons why people work in factories – it is reasonable I have been told, for it gets them off their lazy arses.
At the bank I was advised to keep my chimera close by – it comes in useful when living is pared back. A good dollop of codswallop never did anyone any harm, and it has a useful adhesive function when you’re teetering beside gulfs of separation.
I have also learned, through bitter experience, that it is bad to sprinkle when you have leaked.
The sound of a trumpet at 50 mph.
The stasis between the war memorial and the sauce factory at 3am.
I wander, always, with the thought that I will come upon some pattern of guidance.
On this night it was four black leather gloves, all right hands, all left discarded on the pavements, a fence, the sea-wall; all pointing the way through the constant rain till I arrived at the house of the Sisters of the Sacred Heat.
Inside I was warmed and dried by the deaconess – then with her nails she scratched her message into my skin.
I do not condemn seduction and all it brings with it by way of dissonance, harshness and a renewed sweetness. But the modes of sorrow attract me much more: to oppose a lively genuineness to the decorative charms of senselessness, or to display a stupidity that cannot be imitated and that remains ungraspable, a stupidity born of the hardening of thoughtlessness during its brutal passage from extraction to interjection, like a bewildering halt in an unknown built-up area followed by endless circling of a ring-road.
Neither do I condemn sedation, a warming Bourbon after an ice-cold dip. Sedated for the day I can give myself to song, songs extolling the glories of debauchery. Then sound is the means by which I move towards the essential: ancient clobber, sacred trumpery are cast away, and I know I will be able to make living speech from my wretched mismanagement, the work of my hammer, my love of extravagance.
Marshall their forces on the stairs.
The lights are like soup-tureens
Slowly turning in evening air,
And the bedroom is a perilous pool, to dive in
To the depth of tomorrow.
Your eyes pour out both ill-will
Your voice scatters perimeters
like a nightingale.
Your kinks are philately,
Your muck amphetamine,
Your wounds are wordplay
What is art?
Art is born of Colitis
and plump brown game-birds
and monstrous egos
and poor spectres
and sexual plenitude
and fits of raillery
and torn lingerie
The artist crucifies himself and crucifies art, spits on it, spears it, and is forced to accept that the whole thing is a masque, that must end in a gasp or a choke.
If I could believe in my own expiry, in my own explanations …
I can invent many ways, new ways, of burdening myself. I try to manage my inactivity, my inadequacies; I was taught to be cautious about modernity, that for any new thing or claim there are standards of proof that must be applied, and if these standards of proof find ‘the new’ wanting then one should not budge in the face of it, in fact one should buckle down and bulldoze it out of the way (though I’m afraid I have put the doze into bulldoze in this regard).
This afternoon I noticed the woodsman in the garden – this is not a new phenomenon, though once it was. And I thought perhaps I should put a stop to it – he’s picking some of my tomatoes, some of the hollyhocks. But it would be like a Christian Scientist in a codpiece trying to bowl a leg-break.
I am stuck between a sense of the finite and of the terrible, closely examining my green fingers and neglecting the possibilities within myself, indulging in laments about Being, or unworthiness, or upbringing, without considering the consequence – disinclination. Perhaps it is possible, though, to use a tendency to detraction (to destruction?), not as a way of wallowing in despondency about inactivity or being past one’s sell-by-date (or whatever), but to transgress one’s private laws.
Just another monastic Monday. The loins draw the circulation and the rumbling becomes clearer: the pressures of the marketplace and of bodily functions, supplying limits, orbits.
Rubber after rubber, micro confusions over chairs – and in the elevator.
Be careful not to become a bas-relief of the imaginary – think belief and Belial. The blind metaphorical dominance of georgette confers speech on the threads, a speech both operative and clumsy, attaching meteors to everything, and the tabernacle – so outwardness and sincerity can form a diamond with the diviner.
Central heating appraised and found wanting. Some shortening noticeable amongst the minors.
In a state of angry inactivity, with as much awareness of self and world as could be contained in the teaspoon balanced across the mug on the table. Benumbed by chills, threats, seeing impossible angles across the moors where the will-o’-the-wisp was once free to roam, and where I intend one day to bury the pariah.
The point being that there are draughts I can be conscious of, chew over, and formulate in the active voice of nausea. A chalice grows definable over the mounds of coal, behind which the picaresque hero of this autobiography of frustration surprises the procurator fiscal and the procurer at their secret devotions.
The pelicans are crossing. I stick the chewing gum on the bedpost, newly aware of the chimes – to be taken into account.
Dreams cluttered with shells and branches, shellfish and vertigo, loudhailers, lay-bys, balloons, and heavy lobster hairpins dipped in bile.
In the mornings I am without moorage. I have fits of renunciation. I step through long slithering tendrils of wrack, across boundaries formed by withered roots, disorderly heaps of farrago.
Evenings on the helter-skelter, enjoying the way the descent makes the sunset over the sea flicker, red/black, and at the bottom, retinal red.
A walk along the beach after, picking up shells, listening to the wisdom gathered within them: angst, hauteur, childishness, hormones, lack – all dissolve in their coils.
sometimes I think I am a moon-shot, off-course in the silence of space.
Other times I am an Orangutan, inflamed by the lightning reflected in the infernal sides of the glass mountain, before attacking a shoddy theme-park, delivering there, atop the helter-skelter, an oration of marvellous denunciations.
O show me how to enter the teleconference of souls –
tell me what will be irretrievable –
show me how those with overheating arteries may gain remission.