I have felt myself hardening in the air. Slowly the moisture and motion leaves me and I ossify. All is desiccated. I would scream this stillness had I a voice left, but my throat is cracked and brittle. I am hollow and scorched, a gourd. I dream of tides that will not turn, rains that will not come. There is only this fire without flame. There is only dust.
THIS IS NOT A HOW-TO GUIDE //
Clawing at the shoulders of giants, I have their skin beneath my fingernails: coagulated testament to my thefts or appropriations. I could suck it out, attempt to swallow down this persistent witness, thick soft filth, but I let it remain. Mime sleep, Mime not writing. Let time wax to a featureless grind.
Once, in a dream, one turned and chased me. I thought it was the end. I had no choice: I hacked off his head. His neck was thick; it was hard work, hewing through the flesh and bone. But I feared for my life—it was self-defense, you understand? Though I needn’t have bothered. The headless body pursued me still.
I awoke to the sounds of humans. My hands, ashamed, remembered the sensation of their labour.
the constellation of your face, something unsubstantial that fleets when you’re off guard, mid-sentence, or absent in thought
Sublime disorientation, under a head-cold, I’m floating and the world has grown less distinct. Everything an inch or two off-kilter. The sky is a supreme blue and the paintwork is glowing me a headache. Halting, I lean into the wall and try to swallow myself into its darkness, try to be still, still, as the sunlight laughs through the frailty of my eyelids. But if I remain still for too long the world starts rolling in waves around me.[Last week I had a proper stinking cold for the first time in forever. I had totally forgotten how surreal everything becomes when one’s head is temporarily a receptacle for a seemingly endless supply of mucus.]
and even if I unfold myself completely for you, to you, endlessly—being from now on only and always this unfolding, a work that will never have been done, but that is forever to be attempted—even if I make this attempt, the creases will always remain, indelible, the traces of folds that will not be effaced (for one cannot erase that which does not have the structure of a mark, but is rather a physical memory of a past position, both visible and invisible, irreversible witness to the way things were), and how then am I to overcome the desire to re-fold, to hide once more those glaring quiet creases, hide them from you, and from myself?
this world is the child of catastrophe.
how would it be—if there had never been an extinction, not one? if there had never been the great dying? it would not be this. big—old—dead. (deep time.) it’s like we can’t even think it right. what is ancient? ancient egypt, sure. just like yesterday, but without daytime tv or microwaves. I can take that. but 250 million years ago? No.
(and we’re all alone.)
I ask the stromatolites questions, like, when I go to the toilet, is it okay to switch on the light? because I’m only in there for a minute and I guess I could manage in the dark, but then I usually still turn the light on because it’s normal and with it on I can read the back of the toilet roll packet while I pee and reassure myself that it comes from sustainable forests and that the packaging is widely recycled and that there is not a single effect on the planet of this here particular product, and how could there be anyway because it’s just one thing that’s quite small and the world is big, right? I mean I don’t really know what big means or how big big is, it’s like the ancient thing, it doesn’t fit, and maybe only the stromatolites know exactly how big and maybe I’ll ask them that soon but first about the toilet light, is that okay? or, when it’s really cold, like now, and I have a heater on, is that okay? tell me, is that okay? or, when I make a journey in a car, is that okay, not every day, but from time to time, is that okay? or is it NEVER FUCKING OKAY? (I know that T’s not wrong about the brick, about how the only really defensible relationship to have with any car is with a well-aimed brick, but somehow that reaction gets to seem extreme, and it’s like those things must be okay because we do them, so many things, so many of us, every day, and they’re okay, right? they’re okay?)
the stromatolites never answer
probably because most people never ask
so I have to imagine what they might say. they don’t mind so much about the light or the heater or the car when each is only one but that’s what’s never. it’s never only one (and of course they understand that peeing in the dark would be weird and it is quite cold and sometimes it is just more practical to go by car, although by practical they mean humanpractical which is on a totally different scale to stromatolitepractical, because on that scale, in the Grand Scheme of Things, in deep time and in the big bigness of the world, to go by car is not practical, but of course we can’t see that, it doesn’t fit). and I don’t think that they’d ask me to kill myself or anything, but that’s probably the only thing to do, stop living, or else just pretend they said yes, yes, it’s okay, which is what we do anyway, the only thing we ever managed collectively: one big pretending it’s okay
A Case of Ontological Uncertainty
Believing myself to be a caterpillar—indeed, having no reason to believe otherwise—I duly, when the time felt right, began to ensconce myself in cocoonery, fully expectant, of course, of emerging after an appropriate interim as a butterfly. Not being one to do things by halves, I constructed—and I think you’ll agree—a cocoon of no shameful proportions. That done, I settled down and awaited my transformation.
Two years now, and I’m still waiting.
I’m beginning to question my own caterpillarhood. What if I’m a centipede? My whole world—everything I believed in—everything I stood for—ON SO MANY LEGS!—and for what? For this! For nothing. I’m trapped. Trapped by my own delusions.
Jesus. It’s so dark in here.
There was an earthquake. None survived. Except those who, without particular tenacity, or hope, or wish, but merely through the dullness of chance, did somehow manage to cling to life, in spite of all. Indifferently they clung, and this indifference evinced a profound (albeit momentary) hatred from those that died in the vicinity—their last sight of the world being those that lived without tenacity, hope, or wish. Thus hatred was their dying breath and thus they were damned, if there is such a state, and damned too, even if there isn’t. They were extinguished not without great pain, both physical and emotional, for some thought that they knew love, in spite of all. Often they were bodily wrenched asunder through the unforeseeable mishap of having two limbs astride what would prove an insurmountable fissure. These were messy deaths, and the survivors (if we can call them that) often bore traces – clots of blood and shreds of flesh or organs and splashes of bodily fluids or excretement which invariably dried into a crust and stained, and would not wash away. They bore these foul badges for the rest of their lives, endeavouring not to resent them, and endeavouring instead to respect them as the dull lasting reminder of those that were spent when the earth shivered and was cleft beyond recognition (though, lacking tenacity, they often lapsed in these endeavours). They survived not through any particular merit, as has been noted, but only through the luck (if we can call it that) that stood them on the few places that did not rupture, which were exceeding scarce. Most of the time was cracked beyond recognition. In the end, so to speak, there was more void than matter. None survived. Except few.
VAST, GLOWING VAULT
with the swarm of
black stars pushing them-
selves out and away:
onto a ram’s silicified forehead
I brand this image, between
the horns, in which,
in the song of the whorls, the
marrow of melted
does he not charge?
The world is gone, I must carry you.
(From Atemwende, by Paul Celan)
TODAY’S LEVIATHAN, or: A SURE CASE FOR PENTOBARBITAL - LET’S PUT THIS BEAST OUT OF ITS MISERY AND START OVER, SHALL WE?
“For by art is created that great LEVIATHAN called a COMMONWEALTH, or STATE … which is but an artificial man, though of greater stature and strength than the natural, for whose protection and defence it was intended…”
Such a body I have never seen. Glutted. Vile rolls stacked, bulbous, overflowing, over ankles, over knees. The genitals: obsolete. The vast expanse of stomach (gaping navel swelled). The arms: pendulous wing-like flabs adorned with stubby, stunted, sausage-digits; flaking, brittle nails. The neck: not visible (though endowed with compensatory extra chin). Such a state poses considerable challenges to well-being, and often results in dis-ease and general deterioration (as well as evincing disgust from innocent bystanders, if we can call them that). First there were headaches, chills, and fever: Exhausted and prostrate, our body lays, flaccid, lassitudinous. Sometime beset with nausea, vomiting, soreness in the limbs. Swellings appear (hard, painful, burning lumps), grow darkly, grossly, and split, oozing pus and blood. Otiosity begot filth begot clostridia begot necrotic tissue: Crepitated skin wrinkles blackly over torpid muscle and wasted bone. Auto-gormandization. After a time, also spondylitic degeneration – spinal discs parch brittle – enforcing further stagnation as ability for free movement wanes. After another time, or simultaneously, also fecal incontinence. Then, the creeping appropriation of several organs by malignant neoplasm. (This of course is not externally visible but various metastatic symptoms, and paraneoplastic syndromes allow relevant medical professionals to diagnose, so to speak, with a degree of accuracy. Marantic endocartitis was especially prevalent in our body.) Progress marches: now we have the onset of florid cutaneous papillomatosis (the cutaneous papillomas being indistinguishable from viral warts, but when distinguished are taken as a sure sign of underlying malignancy). This combined with the necrotic tissue earlier described creates a repulsive chequer: air and pus bodying alternate vesicles, blistering obscene. After a time also cerebellar ataxia, manifested in the deranged articulation of dysarthria (phonemes are replaced with miscast globules of saliva, syntax is dispensed with altogether), and intermittent nystagmus. In sum: general atrophy, the horror of breathing murrain.
Unfortunately there are many bodies. Innocent bystanders may wish to employ surgical (or gas) masks, or otherwise envelop their breathing apparatus, to avoid inhaling the odour generated by the discharge-secreting ulcers and orifices.
(your naked hands)