SNOWSHOES ACROSS THE CLOUDS
A sudden storm hit just north of Duxbury. Huge dark clouds. Too cool for ice cream. That evening your voice had something of that in it. Had more than the whole day. Even over the phone it sounded strange and familiar and massive. A week after your mothers death your voice now searches undiscovered caverns, lost canyons, foreign cathedrals. Grief and wonder. You sounded dumbstruck, and yet you spoke in timbres, amplitudes that were I dont know oceanic and turbulent and tranquil and your voice layered through echoes and underground seas and dismal wastes, vast spaces, dust and torrential downpours. Had I never known a voice could sun and become night too?
Had I never known beauty had so many voices? Voices that could reach so far?
Echoes of voices coming nearer, winners and losers mingling, adaptations of free speech
Memories of the dying and the dead. I fear for a friend, currently incommunicado, that his wife has finally died after years of illness. Music has kept him alive, along with the odd beer and bottle of Jack Daniels. No-one really knows him, though I am pleased the little I do. When reminded like this, I notice my fathers photo and remember his voice and mannerisms, though I could describe neither to you. Watching my daughter on the beach, I know she moves just as I do, though I cannot step outside myself to truly see. The familiar and strange both surprise us in ourselves, our family. We are spoilt by the dazzle of self reflected in the future; the brilliance of the filtered past. Just as my father did, I pile up half-read books on many subjects, find it difficult to focus.
2. FOREIGN CATHEDRALS
I have written a poem in candle smoke, and hidden it in the vaulted shadows. The door to the tower has a hole crudely carved in it, a cat flap for a bygone age when this building was filled with busy, living people, not bored tourists. If you listen to the music of their footsteps, the pauses and hesitations, you can imagine there might be a use for all this stone and glass. The architecture of worship and belief is irrelevant to the city, is merely a physical shorthand for the spiritual past. The particularity of place is enhanced by the felt contrast with the total image. History has finished, evensong is about to begin; we are ushered from the building. Dusk is falling, the spotlights already warm the tower. A drunk is asleep on the green, beside several empty cans. Perhaps he is glad to be unhappy?
My favourite icon is the saint with a Medusa-like halo sculpted from white gold.
Gold halos on red grounds, icons of saints remind us of other icons of saints.
Faces in the crowd, the saints of the ages, millions of faces, millions untold of halos and halos never seen, the waves of the dead before us, the waves of the dead after us, we will join them all but for now we delight in the gold and in the faces we can see or describe or paint or remember or hope to see sometime in the next second, the next day, the coming years. My painter friend has been wondering how to paint icons, how to paint images that are hallowed like the icons of old. His so far are plain line etchings in the wet paint, a partial circle, the barest sketch of face. No gold, no iconographic emblems, no elements from the archaic traditions. No theological anguish. But the search for the holy, that is essential, without that no art. Unseen gold always surrounds us, just as does ground.
In the limbs, sinews, muscles, fat and flesh, we welcome the felt contrast between our lives and the life of the earth around us. The squirrels chew acorns and throw them to the ground, popping them off the metal roof, a Cage-ian composition each morning. Clouds panorama endlessly over our days, traveling for the journey and not for the shrine at the end of the world. All this play of light and moisture, water between the toes at the beach, beer and wine and chocolate shakes, the taste of olives late in the night when the stars draw our gaze away so much distraction from our work, which is to do exactly what? Exactly this: pack up the goods, move to the new house, get the job at the coffee shop or the job with the vascular research institute. Put on tea. Pick up the architectural flute and play.
With kaleidoscope and bookmark I set off to read the landscape.
Burning buildings, uncontrollable heat; we are happy enough in the city.
We construct our own worlds but often lose focus and forget the plan. I am easily diverted from the task at hand, allow complexity to confuse and disorder what should be straightforward. Is the percussion of rain on the roof, the drone of traffic passing, music? Are olives always so bitter? Werent the summers longer when I was young? Echoes of elsewhere convince me I can escape the present. Under the arches the damp corner which fascinates and seduces. I have become a kind of ghost in this place; firm verticals and sudden curves no longer make any topological sense. How do we learn to accommodate contradiction, be content within the wreckage? At sunset I watch the lights below and am dazzled into silence and dismay.
4. THE SHRINE AT THE END OF THE ROAD
The past is a radio in the corner of the kitchen. It is not meant to be listened to, its story is too unbelievable. Time is hollow; the sound of it passing is cushioned by rubber memories. Dark and wind, electrical storms are all we have; artificial intelligence is an oxymoron. In a huge warehouse overlooking the Thames the future is hung on the walls for us to see. It is made of remarkably beautiful and sensual markings; is a beginning not a conclusion. I dont know what will happen next, have no interest in change. There is no shared vision, simply the idea that our environment could be different. Up ahead a sign says the world is getting smaller; as we draw closer, the words grow more distinct. So does the music. In exchange for songs I have to answer many questions.
Water currents, culturally transmitted ideas, never ending highway. The running shadow of a man.
Streams silver through the rocks, shadows throw caution to the pausing cars.
You know how a field of wheat waits for the wind. The mountains here now wait too, wait for the flames that will come down, roil them, roll over them, burning in red gold orange sap yellow fires the whole earth, the whole waving rippling ranges and ridges intervales and hollows, from the north steadily downward the last furious torching of summer will red the whole land with flamelight, scorching everything and everyone in its brilliant sun, blaze of final fire, a holocaust of leaves, a pentecost of leafmeal to steady us and ready us for the great cold that will come later, the great blackness, the great cold black darkness and the white ground, the white mountains, the white earth under ice and under that hue and tone that will never relent, never yield to any other hue or tone, that blue.
5. SHARED SENSUAL FUTURES
Lets skim the big highways, rock the back roads, skewer through the land with the shaded eyes of a people struck blind and see what happens. We can get lost looking for the pond and if we dont find it go find another. Along the shore we admire a green paleness but its only sand under shallow water. Talk of the Renaissance, recall the taste of bread in Santorini, wonder about the wisdom of sororities, plan to get lost again next week. Irian Java is being spoilt for gold, copper and oil this same afternoon that here the light is too gold for anyone to bear. The legislature of solipsism has suspended debate. It will reconvene online at your pleasure. And if we go to the celebrated apartment we will watch with disgusted compassion when the stripper and her bodyguard stage the show and take the money. Hanging out plumbs the lines.
Chimes would have been good, gongs, granite drums, maybe bicycles to navigate the forest of whirling dervishes.
Sounds in the distance are difficult to hear when sleeping in a box of thunder.
Think of the world as a group of places you might go; recruit travel as your co-pilot and unleash the music. I know there are places you call your own, where it never rains and you can hear the voices of spirit birds and animals. Exhibited flesh is a memory in darkness; you watch her sleeping on the bed, think of the past unfolding. Waiting for the world to begin, you talk to strangers in the street and complain about the lack of light, as the future disappears into mist every time you reach the high ground. Virtuality is not paradise; the paint on the kerbstones is fading, a breakbeat careers out of control. I am on the opposite side of the world attempting to come to terms with spiritual longing.
6. A PEOPLE STRUCK BLIND
The substance of stars. A spiral of mud handprints on the wall used for rites of passage and cosmic transitions an inarticulate mapping of emotion. Joy moulds our civilization; language is expression, the experience of the past distinct only in the present. I revolt against inertia, have to find a way to synthesize belief with our electronic lives. There is a language of gesture: my brain, my heart, my bowels, my lungs are mine; the rest relies more on improvisation and chance. Genetic improvisation was a failure (the question may have been unclear): with each transformation, new nightmares emerged. Dream conversations flicker until the day begins each dawn: in exchange for songs I have to answer many questions. Something must be important. It has taken a while to find out what and apply conceptual ordering, but it is good to have to pay attention.
Unwanted side effects and swarming cultures; plucked like a fruit without the pleasure of a harvest.
Question how nerve endings branch, how they probe for new avenues where willows line the banks of the riverbeds.
Which genome (we will want to be sure of this), which genome factors in for metaphor, which for synecdoche, which for metastasis or is it metaplasia? And then can we all carry around a little wallet chart, much like those chakra cards we used to have, and when inspiration strikes or the muses fail, we can punch in our code, insert card into any of zillions of handy links available even in fifth world outposts, to re-align the rivulets, the narrow arabic-designed canals linking all the fountains, a lattice of fountains, and dark shimmering pools and sources worldwide? With our own hands wont we then mold clay and pigment into satisfying, finally, vessels of mass celebration? Gardens bloom from allusions such as these. Nectar siphons from fruits borne over bridges on wagons of bamboo and stainless steel. Dark pools mirror the heavens. Where are they when we are located, when we are moving?
7. NEW NIGHTMARES
A palomino rustles its mane in a bloody haze. Cats sit on rusted mufflers. The images dissolve into larger checkered patterns of looser contextuality. They never look like we want them to look. The box of ashes is heavier than Id thought. Ten pounds. Our group explores the house in the dark but the slope keeps us from finding any holds. We rappel down the cliff face. No time does fear strike more deeply in the gut than when the bright day promises all is normal, all will be normal. All is. Emptiness drops through the floor. No one is around now. Peanut butter on toast. A walk around the corner where cigar smoke lingers in the storefront, peeling brown paint on the mullions. Stacks of dishes, wine glasses. Nets. That feeling of being tarry, sticky, black. Roland, always going to the Dark Tower. The frisbee becomes a knife.
You need to make things harder edged, use a stencil and spray paint, or razors, or chisels, take up new media.
Conversation and meaning share the same living room; paintings on the wall are part of our community.
In the brief hours I spent in my studio yesterday I briefly experienced the elusive thrill of how paint and ideas can fill long days, how other possibilities simply open up ahead while you work. Making and doing / doing and making; effortless, right. This morning I visited the patterns I have made, smelt the heavy studio air. Toxic, uplifting; complex entanglements in the ether the perfume of promises, of energy and success. Abstraction does not expect any answers, and I have none to give; just a need to overcome resistance. Am I writing you a letter that will never be read? Who makes the toast in your house every morning? Boxes of ashes always weigh heavy they should be emptied in a high wind. The universe will end without light or motion; I hope I am there to see it. Through the dirty window there comes the sound of rain. It is wise not to appear too grateful.
8. IN THE DARK
Quite helpless but hopelessly charming as well. Do wrong and it comes back to haunt you; neon signs and patches of noise flash into the distance. It may prove a nightmare for everyone else too: wingbeats registering on tape, a low-pitched flutter. There is a large element of accident in a single sentence or train timetable, a mutual alienation of private horror; we seek the evidence of a civilized universe. When the walls are dripping with condensation, thirst and wonder remains. Words not only decay naturally, but are deliberately subverted by recreational activities. Countless dreamers are down on their hands and knees shouting into holes in the ground. Welcome to the distorted generation, limp and cross-eyed from all the torments visited upon themselves.
No cheers, no answer, no sound at all. You cant blame yourself for being human.
This life, this locus, the one certain thing is continuity of place, if not purpose.
Tired at all ends. House on the weekends and jobs and trying to write and run. My back all fuckface from shoveling and moving the enormous houserocks that litter all points of yard. Hard hard. Rocks here and there. Lift with your legs, not your back because your back doesnt have lifting muscles. Still I lift with my back because my legs dont have bending muscles. Anyway. Too many things. Balance between breezy blessings, bunch of brewers blackbirds. Thunder in the last night of summer. Feeder empty. Egg on end: contemplation & action, pro- & retro- spects exactly split. Opportunity / poignancy; belief/grief; pear + solitaire. Go inward & upward, summon strength. Ascend shadow side, come to atop the mountain, the golden light on distant yellow leaves. At last the vertical black slash and the rough black oval feel right, just perfect, set into the field of light cadmium red as they are. Build a wall, rake a zen garden, move the stones, let the leaves fall.
9. A LOW-PITCHED FLUTTER
Grace tricks open portals, coaxes us across thresholds. You can feel it when you spread butter on toast. Accidents bring upon us the absolutely new. Insight stops the prayer wheels. Joy or despair sets them spinning. In a village in France one traveller feels ecstasy at the sight of the statue of St. Foie. In Bhutan, another learns to listen to the noise of temple prayer. Today thousands will hear in silence the ultraviolet breathing, the sonorities of a quarry filled with moths, a hum travelers report from the Altiplano of Bolivia and the deserts of Siberia. But what of the oldest friend, the dearest, the young one, with the cancer that will not cure? Is she sure of the absolutely new, of grace or accident? Is she at a crossroads anyone wants to recognize? Can she ramble around the lake of stars?
If we cant escape house arrest, we can take the salts and ointments off the shelf and apply their mercies to the astonished flesh.
An envelope with no postmark changes hands; my mind is flung into a new country.
Conventional history chronicles the dullest parts, is strangely short on definitions. Imagine a communications network which included hope and thought and prayer; and other things such as memory. A channel of action, a signpost with arrows on a road leading to self-organization and the effort to speak honestly. Theres a mild wind and sun comes warm through the mist, Ive a sprig of honeysuckle in water in a mug; I regard these as characteristic. The light has gone adrift, it is dark already when I shut my eyes, yet the insides of my eyelids are printed with the usual fluorescent yantras; there is the opportunity to construct entire universes where readers may wander and wander. Absolution brings us new accidents; I offer up a toast for grace. We must all learn new tricks, share the guilt.
10. THE LAKE OF STARS
I have been warming the pipes, running a bath without the plug in. Redressing arachnoid balance. It was an accident, I didnt know the procedure, had to figure it out, everything about the way I lived. There are dozens of such procedures; I hope great order will come about. We all went through cultural crisis, saw our friends working in the field of dialogue and dreams; they are still busy tracing the faintest sounds. We have been misrepresented by journalists; the movement of the boat across the water helps the narrative along. Weeping into the typewriter in the attic, I only hope that the space race resumes. Everything is all so much bigger than we thought. I dont want to put words in your mouth, but there is really no place we should be, nowhere we truly belong. We are such a distance from where we intended to be.
Look at these images that are out of focus: light, shade, birds in flight, water running, a lightning bolt; imagine the touch of fire.
Only the circular saw, the mousepad, and the schoolbook can prepare us for such omens.
The thing is is the way they always wash over you, or try to wash over you. While inside the tidal wave, once in, you discover all this machinery, a total software of conclusions. And three-fourths through you say Hey what happened to all that washing over? Where is the whelm in this over, and why are we once again locked into such usually surprising inevitables and probables? Today I cant go there to look once again. What if something happened in them while Ive been away? He got everything right, but how will we know (since he has been gone a while now) if I dont go see for myself once more? He spoke for us all when he inserted that finger into that bloodied floodwall, didnt he? Or so she thought as she moved through that labyrinth, dragging that thread behind her. Toward which, as she wended, those filings rushed.